As Liverpool look likely to wrap up a deal for RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konaté, rumours continue to spread about further defensive reinforcements. One name that keeps popping up is Ivorian wing-back Wilfried Singo. The player is currently at Italian side Torino and has become a regular starter for Il Toro - starting 16 of their 21 Serie A games.
Born in Ouragahio on Christmas Day in 2000, he began his career at Denguélé - a small club from the town of Odienné. At the age of 18, he made the move to Italy after being recognised by Torino. He originally started in their Primavera team (the Under 19's), rotating between right midfield & central defence. After impressing in the youth team he was given his debut in a Europa League game against Debreceni.
This season Torino have struggled and sit just one place above the relegation zone with little time left in the season - despite many believing they have a much better squad than what they have showcased. Singo is one of few positives this season, with the 20-year-old impressing in his Right Wing Back position. With a £17million price tag being mentioned, here's an analysis of what the player could offer the Reds and whether or not the move makes sense.
What Do the Stats Say?
Any potential move for Singo would rely on him being able to cover for Trent Alexander-Arnold. The Ivorian is able to play in central defence but is more naturally a right back/wing back. Perhaps then, the most important statistics to look at are Singo's creative numbers - as this is vital to Liverpool's tactics.
As can be seen in the graphic below, Singo is above the average in terms of expected assists & key passes per 90, but still falls short of Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. The Ivorian has provided two assists this season (Alexander-Arnold & Robertson have five each). While he is certainly not putting up stand out numbers, there is enough there to suggest he would be a viable back up option to the Englishman.
One key area of both Robertson's & Alexander-Arnold's games is their crossing - even if that has been lacking at times this season (Robertson has decreased his completed crosses by 0.09 per 90 & Alexander-Arnold by 0.12). Again, a similar theme appears.
Singo is just above the average for crosses completed into the 18 yard box per 90 for defenders across Europe's Top 5 leagues. He doesn't put up the numbers that Liverpool's elite duo do, but there is promising signs that the 20-year-old would be a strong rotation option in terms of his creativity.
Overall his underlying creative numbers are solid, and this is especially promising for such a young defender in his first season as a starter in Serie A. Under Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool's full-backs have gone from being relegated and being in the academy to the best pairing in Europe. Singo has the raw skillset that means he would be able to make leaps and bounds under the German.
The most exciting part of Wilfried Singo's game is his ability on the ball, and progressing it up the pitch. As can be seen above, his numbers rival that of both Robertson & Alexander-Arnold this season. Singo is still extremely raw but his dribbling style is exciting as much as it is risky. Below is a video of some of the Ivorian's on the ball skills.
He is a risk taker on the ball. His style of ball progression is more similar to that of a Wilfried Zaha or Sadio Mané than that of a traditional full back like Alexander-Arnold. It may result in him losing the ball a bit more often (1.7 miss-controls per 90 compared to Trent, 0.49 and Robertson, 1.07). However, this could offer the Reds something they currently don't have at full-back, and there is of course time on the young defenders side to improve even further.
Singo's Defensive Ability
One criticism that is constantly brought up when talking about Alexander-Arnold is his defensive ability (even if he is better than people give him credit for). So how does Wilfried Singo compare to the Scouse defender?
One thing that should be noted when comparing their defensive stats is their positions. The Torino player plays as a RWB, with three central defenders behind him. Alexander-Arnold is part of a back four, which gives him much more responsibility.
As can be seen by the graphic below, Singo is above the average when it comes to tackles and interceptions. This is to be expected as he is part of a Torino team that does a lot of defending. One particular positive to note from Singo's defensive stats is his successful pressures.
He performs 3.08 per 90, more than both Robertson (2.91) and slightly less than Alexander-Arnold (3.36). This suggests that he would be able to match the intensity that Reds demand of their players, something that would be important to any potential signing.
Positioning & Suitability
A Brief Look at Torino
Singo is coming from a side that are struggling this season, and who were even described as 'The Biggest Underperformers in Europe' in January. They began the season utilising a 4-4-2 under the guidance of new boss Marco Giampolo. This didn't work out for the former AC Milan boss, and the club fired him for Davide Nicola. The former Italian player uses a 3-5-2 system, something more familiar to the Piedmont club.
The team have struggled for goals this season - just 39 in the league - and have conceded the fifth most goals in Serie A. They sit just one place above the relegation zone and are in real danger of succumbing to relegation.
As can be seen above, Singo's heat map resembles that of a winger more than that of a full-back. He covers the right hand side of the pitch in its entirety. He begins games at Right Wing Back and is tasked with influencing the game on both the defensive and offensive ends.
Singo has the freedom to be less disciplined with the knowledge that he has a CB (in this case fellow rumoured target Gelson Bremer) covering for him in the defensive third.
The Ivorian also has experience as a natural Right Back - it's the position he grew up playing. This would allow him to adapt to Liverpool's back four system. His ability to cover a lot of ground will also appeal highly to Klopp, who values work rate extremely high. One of Singo's best performances this season came in the last minute defeat to rivals Juventus, in which he excelled in both covering in defence against Cristiano Ronaldo, and moving Torino up the pitch when in possession.
Suitability to Liverpool
Wilfried Singo is an extremely raw yet extremely talented defender. He still has a lot of growing to do until he is ready for a top side. This move may come too early for the player who has just one season as a starter in a top league. It's difficult to determine whether or not he'd fit in at Anfield straight away, but his skillset allows him to be versatile and be moulded into any top managers vision.
Singo would likely be a good back up option for the Reds, even if the rumoured £17million would be steep for a player valued at just £5.40million (transfermark.co.uk). His ability to play a number of positions - including CB - will be attractive to Michael Edwards and Klopp. However, he probably isn't good enough to be a CB for the club right now, and wouldn't get the game time required to grow as a player over Alexander-Arnold.
The Ivorian will no doubt continue to grow as a player, but he is still someone that is determining what his position is and needs the game time to grow his raw skillset. Liverpool would likely be a step up too far for Singo, who would expect too much of him too soon.