Alexandre Lacazette, who appeared bound for Atletico Madrid, before a transfer ban scuppered those plans, very recently claimed that the Premier League is a:
‘Great league, with interesting teams’.
Perhaps the most interesting of all teams right now is Liverpool FC, a club 0dds-on to secure the services of £50-60 million rated Virgil Van Dijk, and headed by Jürgen Klopp. However, would Lacazette suit Liverpool, and if so, what would he bring to the club?
For this analysis it would be useful to compare Lacazette to Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge and to see if he provides something different, or an improvement. We’ll be looking at goals, assists, aerial duels, tackles and interceptions, but will be using this season’s statistics for Lacazette and Firmino, but the 2013/14 statistics for Daniel Sturridge – the last time there was an adequate sample size for such a comparison to take place.
|Player||Games||Goals||Assists||Aerial Duels won per Game||Shots per Game||Key Passes per Game||Dribbles per Game||Interceptions (season)||Tackles (season)|
*Numbers in brackets denote a substitute appearance
Figures sourced from WhoScored
Lacazette’s average of one goal per game this season is a truly impressive record, and in the 2015-16 season he scored 27 goals and provided 6 assists from 33 games, whilst in the previous season he netted 21 times and created 3 assists in 34 games. However, of his 28 goals in Ligue One this season, 10 of those goals were penalties, whilst in 2014-15, 8 of his 27 goals were penalties. Only two of his 21 goals in 2015-16 were penalties.
So whilst he has scored a large proportion of his goals through penalties this season (just shy of 36pc), Lacazette still scores a majority of his goals from open play (46pc). More specifically, the majority of his shots are inside the box – of his 2.8 Shots per Game, 2.1 of them are in the penalty area. His non-penalty conversion rate lies circa 20pc, and he excels on the counter-attack, but in recent seasons, the last two especially so, has developed into a classic goal poacher.
His assist record may appear rather miserly, but we must account for the players he figures alongside to. In terms of interceptions and tackles, he is a significant downgrade on Roberto Firmino, but in regards to that there are very few strikers who would not be – Firmino heads or is near the top in presses, tackles and interception figures across Europe’s top five leagues.
His figures are similar to Daniel Sturridge though, and that can only be promising. The difference Daniel Sturridge makes to the Liverpool team when he plays is phenomenal, stretching defences, creating space, and punishing teams. Lacazette could prove to be a player in the same sort of vein too. The importance of an out-and-out striker cannot be understated. Where Firmino struggles at times is against a low-block, as does the rest of the team without Mané and Sturridge; what Lacazette could provide would be a direct outlet for Coutinho from deep, and a constant threat for opposition centre-backs. With opposition centre-backs occupied, wingers such as Mané and Salah would be able to isolate their opposing full-backs, and create more pockets for attacking midfield half-space specialists such as Coutinho, Firmino or Lallana to exploit.
Not only this but a striker such as Lacazette would go some way to filling the goal scoring deficit Liverpool have upfront. It’s unsustainable and unreasonable for Liverpool to expect Firmino to lead the line every game and score as many goals as Sanchez, Costa or Kane, so too to expect Daniel Sturridge’s fitness to hold up. Securing a quick, lithe striker, with experience in the Champions League and on the international stage would provide the goals, depth and quality in the squad which it so desperately needs, especially if the club is to compete in both domestic and European competitions next season.
His tackling, interceptions and pressing still leave much to be desired, but working with Jürgen Klopp may get the best out of him in this respect. As a poacher though, he would feast upon the work that players such as Firmino put in, winning the ball up high up the pitch, whilst the creativity of Coutinho from deep should provide chances aplenty for Lacazette should he join Liverpool. His pace is a real asset too, Liverpool without Mané during 2016-17 lacked penetration and zip to their play, whilst Mané is expected to be fit for the coming season, and Salah expected to join Liverpool too, Liverpool should have pace aplenty, but pace through the middle will make Liverpool a threat on the counter-attack to the same extent Manchester City are. With the vision of Van Dijk and Coutinho, Lacazette could wreak havoc on the counter-attack from a simple corner, Liverpool would be posing a threat in almost all aspects of their play.
However Lacazette would not solve Liverpool’s physicality deficit. Liverpool are the shortest team in the league as it stands, and second lightest, after Manchester City. Lacazette, whilst a poacher, would not be the biggest threat on set pieces, nor would he be a defensive option, as Benteke was. With months remaining in the transfer window, there is more than enough time for this issue to be addressed though, so it is hardly too much of a concern in relation to Lacazette.
With Lacazette, Liverpool would have cover of the highest order for Daniel Sturridge, if not a replacement or even a strike partner for him. With around 60 games expected next year, a player with a strong fitness record in the forward department is essential considering the records of Sturridge, Origi and Ings. He may also prove to be one part of the solution to overcoming the low-block issues that proved the biggest stumbling block for Liverpool this season, and one of the differences between a Champions League qualification bid and a title challenge.
However, with Lacazette Liverpool would certainly appear top heavy. If he was bought, he would be expecting to play as many games as possible, but so too would Mané, Salah, Coutinho and Firmino. It seems near impossible cramming all of these players into one balanced team, but an approach similar to Manchester City’s may pay dividends, in which 5 offensive players are used in a loosely fluid formation, this may allow for Firmino to still be an effective spearhead to the press, alongside Lacazette, but this would be an intriguing prospect nonetheless for Jürgen Klopp, and for fans alike to see.
The signing of Lacazette would be a fantastic addition to Liverpool, and if the move is possible, the club should pull out all the stops to make such a move happen; his characteristics would add variety, depth and competition to the ranks in the squad. With Lacazette leading the line, and with a new recruitment at left-back, Liverpool would be one of the most frightening prospects in Europe, scoring at a rate higher than that of the first half of the 2016-17 season.
If the club are serious about being the best in England, there can be no better statement of intent than purchasing one of the most coveted strikers in Europe, and one who may suit Liverpool to a tee.