Why Liverpool should sign Serie A wonderkid

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Liverpool don’t have the best of luck when it comes to buying Italian players. Alberto Aquilani’s time on Merseyside was plagued by injuries, Andrea Dossena had that one week as a cult hero, Fabio Borini failed to live up to the hype while Mario Balotelli was, well, Mario Balotelli. 

The Reds have been near faultless in the transfer market since they stopped buying Italian players. But you have to dip your toe back in the water at some point, don’t you? And now might be the ideal opportunity for this. 

Well, not right now. Liverpool are reportedly reluctant to spend big but once things are back to normal, Serie A should be the first stop for Michael Edwards and the rest of the recruitment team. With all eyes on the Bundesliga, talent in the Italian top-flight is going under the radar. The Premier League leaders should look to capitalise on this. 

The need for a fourth attacker is known by all. Journalists close to the club have reported it for some time now and a move for Timo Werner appeared to be a formality. However, it wasn’t to be. Though Jurgen Klopp has attacking talent at his disposal, he’s currently without a real replacement for Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. Takumi Minamino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi can all do a job but none of the aforementioned quartet are identical to Liverpool’s No.10 and No.11 in terms of playing profile. When one of them is missing, the system suffers.

If the Reds want a genuine fourth option in attack, Federico Chiesa should be at the top of their wishlist. The 22-year-old has been part of the Fiorentina attack since the 2016/17 campaign. In terms of quantifiable output, he’s been consistent. He’s netted six times in each of his past three seasons and he’s chipped in with a combined 11 assists. Those aren’t standout numbers but it’s worth remembering that he’s playing for a volatile side. There’s not much continuity in the La Viola team and for a player in his formative years that isn’t ideal. 

Furthermore, those headline figures aren’t the be-all and end-all. Expected goals and assists are better indicators of how a player is actually performing. Chiesa is improving as a goal threat with every passing year. According to Understat, his expected goals average is now at 0.37 per 90, up from 0.28 last season. While his expected assists average over the past three seasons is roughly 0.17 per 90. For a bit of context, those averages are very similar to the ones posted by Salah and Mane at Roma and Southampton respectively. 

He’s a goal threat and a chance creator. He’s versatile, too, and can play anywhere across the front three. But the most interesting stat, which can be found on FBref, is how much of an active presser of the ball he is. He puts pressure on an opponent 10 times in the middle third and nine times in the final third on a per 90 basis. That puts him on par with Roberto Firmino. Of course, the team he’s playing in and the style they’re using needs to be taken into account but those numbers suggest he’s active and that he doesn’t shirk his defensive responsibilities. 

At 22, he falls into the category of a Liverpool signing. He won’t be cheap but he might be a player the Reds seriously look at now that rival teams have gatecrashed their Bundesliga viewing.

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