André-Frank Zambo Anguissa: A Potential Georginio Wijnaldum Replacement For Liverpool
Liverpool are laser-focused in the transfer market. They hone in on targets and fixate their interests in only signing them, even if they have to wait. This approach bore fruit with the signings of Virgil van Dijk and Naby Keita, who they had to six months and a year respectively to bring to Anfield.
Another feature of the Reds’ transfer market maneuvering has been to opportunistically sign players from relegated clubs for reduced prices. Georginio Wijnaldum and Andrew Robertson — two key lieutenants for Jurgen Klopp over his tenure with Liverpool — arrived from Newcastle and Hull, two clubs who had fallen through the relegation trap door a few months before they moved to Merseyside.
Xherdan Shaqiri also departed relegated Stoke City to join Liverpool and, when fit, has been an essential and effective squad player, helping himself to League and Champions League winners medals during his two and a half years as a player at Anfield.
With money tight due to monetary constraints caused by the ongoing global pandemic, Liverpool may have to plan their transfer strategy for the upcoming summer accordingly and look to plunder relegated teams for talent.
Fulham, who sit 18th in the table at the time of writing — three points off Newcastle United in 17th — could be a port of call for Michael Edwards, the Reds’ sporting director, this summer.
With Wijnaldum, who still hasn’t signed a contract to extend his stay at the club he joined in 2016, highly likely to depart to pasture news at the end of the current season, Liverpool may look to replace the Dutchman and André-Frank Zambo Anguissa could be an ideal candidate.
The 25-year-old Cameroon international has been one of the — if not the — Cottagers’ key performers this season and his all-action style has won many plaudits.
Wijnaldum, meanwhile, has been his usual efficient self and has shown remarkable levels of durability — as well as his trademark tactical intelligence and positional versatility — by not breaking down with an injury in the most physically strenuous season of all time.
Zambo Anguissa shares many attributes with the Dutchman, not least his ability to carry and protect the football thanks to an innate talent for dribbling. The former Marseille midfielder is in the 99% percentile, according to FBRef, for dribbles completed with 3.40 per 90.
In a manner similar to Liverpool’s number 5, the 25-year-old isn’t the most ambitious with his passing, although some of this can be explained away by following doctors’ tactical orders and letting other players fulfill the playmaking role.
The 26 times capped Cameroon international is in the 33% percentile for progressive passes — this figure would highly likely improve in a better team — and the 81% percentile for completed passes, which paints a picture of his defensively diligent, ball recycling and protecting role.
For context, Wijnaldum appears in the 20% for progressive passes — which are defined by FBRef as ‘Completed passes that move the ball towards the opponent’s goal at least 10 yards from its furthest point in the last six passes or any completed pass into the penalty area. Excludes passes from the defending 40% of the pitch’ — 44% percentile for passes attempted, with his completion rate putting him in the 98% percentile.
It’s not only on the ball where the two players have similarities, but off the ball Wijnaldum and Zambo Anguissa share many traits.
The Fulham midfielder completes 1.87 interceptions per 9o — a number that sees him in the 96% percentile in that metric across Europe’s top five leagues for the last year — and his tackling stats are similarly impressive, completing 2.85 per 90 which means he is in the 79% percentile for this trait.
A trait that may further endear Zambo Anguissa to Liverpool’s recruitment team and Klopp is her aerial ability. Despite *only* standing 6’0″, the Cameroonian wins 1.51 aerials duels a game, which ranks him in the 66% percentile as measured against other midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues.
Neither players are especially susceptible to injury, a highly beneficial predisposition. Zambo Anguissa has only missed fourteen games since 2017 and 10 of those were due to one ankle injury; as it goes, he is relatively sturdy and able for the hurly-burly, physical nature of English football.
With their claustrophobic press preventing most teams from being able to effectively play through their pressure, many opponents try to hurt the Reds by other playing methods. Usually, the approach is long balls, played over the press, or to attempt to make hay from set-pieces.
Having a player with Zambo Anguissa’s aerial prowess would be a useful defensive safety mechanism for Liverpool and provide an antidote to the tactics mostly employed against Liverpool.
Another benefit to pursuing the former Villarreal loanee is the fact that he has played under Marcelo Bielsa at Marseille. The Argentinian — who zealously plays an intense pressing style of football — shares many tactical similarities with Klopp, therefore, it wouldn’t be a strategical culture shock for the 25-year-old if he ever made the switch to Anfield.
From now to the end of the season, the Reds will be sure to be keeping a close eye on events at Craven Cottage and the Cottagers’ Cameroonian could well be the next relegated player that Liverpool sign.