N’Gog – Silent Assassin?

N’Gog – Silent Assassin?
August 20, 2009 Paul Tomkins

Unbelievably, I’ve heard a few Reds criticising David N’Gog. Here we have a young import who has only played 458 minutes of meaningful (Premiership and Champions League) football for Liverpool.

Yet some people are already writing him off. I’ve even seen ‘fans’ complaining that he nearly missed last night, even though he was pushed in the back by a Stoke defender at the crucial moment. Frankly, if it went in off his arse I wouldn’t care; he was there, he got the ball over the line.

There seems to be a clamour for Nemeth, and while I think the young Hungarian is the more natural goalscorer, N’Gog has earned the chance due to his pace, height and the fact that he too can score goals. Just because we like the look of Nemeth doesn’t mean we should turn on his rival. I hate that logic.

For Red Race, I looked at what I called players’ “Goal Involvement”. It is a mixture of goals and broader assists, that take into account more than just the final pass.

Last season, in his 452 minutes (about the equivalent of just five full games), he was involved in a goal every 75 minutes – the 2nd best figures out of the entire squad, marginally behind Gerrard and marginally ahead of Torres. He scored three and ‘assisted’ three.

So far this season, he has played just six minutes. But added to last season’s tally, his latest goal makes for a telling contribution every 41 minutes – an incredible rate.

Now, of course he’s aided by often coming on late against dispirited opposition, and he’s yet to be tested against the best sides.

And no-one can maintain a goal involvement of one every 41 minutes over the course of a career. But even so, these are Premiership and Champions League fixtures. And he is doing what is asked of him. Come on in the 84th minute, and you will do well to score a goal. He’s showed that he can do that.

Can he do more than is currently being asked of him? I’m not sure – just yet, at least. And hopefully he won’t be needed too often, with Torres and Gerrard fit. But after a slow start last season he has won me over, and I see the undoubted potential he has. He has toughened up a bit, and wised up to less time on the ball, but of course he has a lot to still learn.

Nemeth is perhaps the more exciting prospect – I love his finishing style – but we have only really seen him in the reserves and in pre-season games. When N’Gog played for the reserves against Newcastle late last season he absolutely murdered them. He was sensational. But that’s because there’s a big leap to the first team; one we don’t yet know how Nemeth will handle.

I’m just glad we have two such promising strikers. Both are just 20, and while some teenage strikers burst onto the scene, others blossom with time.

By the same age, Louis Saha had scored just six league goals in 56 matches for Metz and Newcastle (on loan). Thierry Henry only managed 28 league goals at Monaco by the time he was 22, after nearly 150 games.

It doesn’t mean N’Gog will turn into a top Premiership player, but it shows that similar types of players (tall, fast Frenchmen with good feet) can develop massively in their early 20s.

For the time being, N’Gog is a great option from the bench. After all, at the moment he’s showing that he doesn’t need long to get involved in the creation or finishing of a chance.

‘Red Race: A New Bastion’ is out now, available only from www.paultomkins.com. Click here for details on the book and how to order.

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