Last January Liverpool were linked with a £6.6 million move for RB Leipzig attacker Emil Forsberg. It was an underwhelming link for fans who had expected Jurgen Klopp to bring in big name reinforcements and not players plying their trade in the Bundesliga 2 – the German equivalent of the Championship.
As expected it was a link which seemed to frustrate Liverpool fans on Twitter. “The Swedish Milner”, “not good enough for Liverpool if they want European football” and “why are we being linked to randomers” seemed like three popular replies whenever a news account posted the link.
Fast forward almost a year and people would have a different opinion if Liverpool reignited their interest in the 25-year-old Swede. RB Leipzig are now top of the Bundesliga, three points ahead of Bayern Munich, six ahead of Borussia Dortmund and they are currently one of only two sides still unbeaten in the Bundesliga. The most hated club in Germany are arguably one of the most exciting sides in Europe and Forsberg is at the forefront of it. His 5 goals and 5 assists so far in the Bundesliga mean he’s involved in a goal every 69.3 minutes. He’s part of a destructive quartet of players at Leipzig which harasses, presses and slices through defences on a regular basis. He would be a welcomed addition to Klopp’s Liverpool with Mane leaving to go to the AFCON in January.
So how and why does he suit Liverpool?
Movement off of the ball
In the first picture Forsberg is circled in black. Many players in this scenario would look to have the ball played to feet, highlighted by the black line, but, like many Liverpool players these days, Forsberg looks to exploit the space ahead of him, shown by the white arrow. He know’s doing this stretches the play and opens up space centrally for others to exploit. It’s all about dictating space.
In the second picture, the ball had been played to Forsberg after his run into space and he’s isolated the the Bochum right-back. He takes a touch to control it before rolling it into space for the RB Leipzig man who takes the ball in his stride and fires home.
One important trait in a Klopp player is their work rate/desire off of the ball. In the pictures above a RB Leipzig counter attack is stopped by the Hamburg player in possession in the first picture. He has time to bring the ball under control and carry it forward. But Forsberg doesn’t let this happen, with so many RB Leipzig players in attacking positions he wants to capitalise on this and in the second picture you can see he’s won the ball back off of the player in quite a dangerous area. He takes a tumble but picks himself back up and shows calmness and composure to thread a perfectly weighted ball through to the unmarked man to his right who finishes. It’s an easy pass but sometimes those are the ones players over/under hit.
So far this season he’s averaged 1.4 tackles and 1.8 interceptions per 90 minutes.
Vision and Execution
In the picture above Forsberg has regained possession and is looking to get RB Leipzig on the counter attack. The black arrow shows the pass some players may opt to make but the white arrow shows the pass Forsberg makes. The former option would make the player receiving the ball do the work with the ball into feet and he’d have to carry it further whereas the latter option, the one Forsberg takes, allows the player in question, Timo Werner, to run onto the ball and make the most of the space ahead of him.
This is just ridiculous skill vision. He receives the ball in the first picture and there isn’t much on so he plays a reverse ball between the Mainz players and into the path of the Leipzig left-back who is able to fire the ball across goal. Talk about unlocking a defensive line.
In February, Forsberg extended his deal with the German outfit to 2021 amid interest from both Liverpool and Everton. It’s unlikely you’d see much change from £20 million but for a versatile, hardworking, fleet-footed goal threat who is capable of using either foot in confined spaces and has a lot of room to develop and grow that could be considered a bargain.
He has the ability to fill in for Sadio Mane when he’s away at AFCON but then he has the ability and profile to play the Adam Lallana role in midfield. Although he’s a wide player, the Leipzig system often sees the wide men come narrow in midfield to take up centre-midfield roles with the natural centre-midfielders dropping into defensive midfield areas. He’s constantly playing on the half-turn and looking at ways to progress the play. He is able to help defensively, press, dribble through defensive lines and his incisive passes from deep means he would be quite the weapon in the hands of Jurgen Klopp.