Luka Milivojevic moved to Crystal Palace from Olympiacos in the January transfer window of 2017 during Sam Allardyce’s reign as manager. Since then, he has proved to be a prominent part of the Eagles midfield through manager incomings and outgoings. Milivojevic was unknown to English football followers, spending the initial years of his career primarily in Eastern Europe. Having graduated from the academy of his home town club, Radnicki 1923, the midfielder moved to Rad and then Red Star Belgrade, climbing the domestic football pyramid in his home country.
The Serbian has made a total of 155 appearances for Palace in the Premier League, scoring 28 goals and adding a further five assists. Last season he made 31 appearances for Crystal Palace under Roy Hodgson as the Eagles finished fourteenth in the league. This season although he missed the initial few games, he has since featured in Vieira’s midfield prominently. He has made a total of five appearances so far in the Premier League. The Eagles have been transforming slowly under Patrick Vieira. While they have been unable to secure a win in their previous five games in the league, they have made sure that they grab at least a point from their previous four encounters. As a result, they sit 15 in the Premier League, five points clear of the relegation zone. In an interview last month, Milivojevic stated that he believes the Eagles are heading in the right direction under Vieira.
Let’s dive into some stats from last season and this season to understand Milivojevic’s contribution to Palace’s midfield.
Milivojevic is a defensive midfield player with excellent ability with both feet. He is extremely comfortable receiving the ball under pressure and is often the first available option for the defenders. The Serbian midfielder is simplistic in his passing but effective in distribution of the ball. The majority of his passing and progression metrics surpass the league median value as indicated by the stats from last season. This season also, although he has been involved in fewer games, he has ranked highly in terms of passing and progression with the majority of his stats surpassing the league median value.
Milivojević is solid defensively as well. He is an accurate man marker when required and has the ability to cover vast amounts of space, providing coverage in front of the defensive line by taking up excellent positions. He is often able to plug gaps in his defence and intercept passes when necessary. He ranks highly in terms of defensive actions as indicated by his stats from last season and this season as well.
His qualities off the ball are impressive as well. Without possession, the Serbian is an intelligent player who is instrumental in build-up phases for his team. He is often able to find useful passing lanes and link-up with his forward players. His work rate is also tremendous as displayed in his heat map from last season. He covers almost every blade in the field but is most active near the centre in his defensive half. His heat map from this season is already starting to take a similar shape as last. Although this season he has been most active in the opponent half rather than his own half indicating that he has been supporting his team in the attacking phases more.
Milivojevic has continued to improve throughout his time with the Eagles and has been selected by every manager who has taken charge at Selhurst Park. He is robust and intelligent in defence and possesses great passing ability. In addition, he is consistent from the penalty spot. Under Patrick Vieira he has featured in the midfield regularly and if his stats are any indication then he will continue to do so.