Nicolas Gonzalez: A Future Liverpool Forward
Gradually, reports are beginning to emerge that Liverpool’s main priority in the upcoming transfer window will be adding more firepower to their forward line.
According to the well connected Simon Hughes of The Athletic the Reds will be looking to supplement their stock of attackers with addition(s) and not — despite some rumours linking Mohamed Salah with a move to pastures new — to replace any of their current options.
With Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri expected to leave, Jurgen Klopp, by all accounts, wants to add a forward to compete with Diogo Jota, Salah and Sadio Mane.
A player who fits that bill and who also has the scope to improve further is VFB Stuttgart’s Argentinian forward, Nicolas Gonzalez.
The left-footed 22-year-old has been an integral part of Stuttgart’s season, scoring six league goals in 14 so far in their first season back in the German top flight. At the time of writing, Klopp’s boyhood club sit eighth, only six points of Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League qualification position.
Under Italian American coach Pellegrino Matarazzo, the Die Roten — with some similarities to Liverpool — play an aggressive style of football and like to play quickly and ambitiously on the counter-attack.
The style of football syncs perfectly with Gonzalez’s strengths as a player. Mirroring his team, the pacey Argentinian international isn’t the most prolific, but it’s not for the want of trying. He ranks in the 97% category across Europe’s top 5 leagues for shots per 90 with 4.56. The former Argentinos Junior academy player regularly gets himself into good areas, which is seen in the fact he touches the ball in the penalty area on average 7.19 times per 90, which is in the 91% percentile.
It’s not only Gonzalez’s goal-scoring that is impressive. The forward — who has been linked to, among others, Tottenham Hotspur recently — has created two goals this season and his expected assists(XA) figure of 0.18 per 90 is in the 81% across Europe’s top 5 leagues.
His pass completion rate — at 60% — is poor, but this indicates that five times capped Argentina international tries ambitious passes. This is proven by the fact that his progressive pass percentage stands at 2.4 per 90, which places him in the 78% percentile of forwards in Europe’s most competitive leagues.
Progressive passes are defined 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
Extrapolated across the whole German league campaign, the Argentinian should be getting close to six assists. Considering the fact that Stuttgart are newly promoted these are very impressive figures.
A key consideration that Klopp and his recruitment team consider when signing players is what they off the ball and how hard they work for the team. Although not the most refined in his pressing, Gonzalez records 1.52 blocks per game, which is more than 95% of teams in comparable leagues.
The Argentine doesn’t fare as well in pressures — 39% percentile — and interceptions, the 59% percentile. But there is definitely the capacity for him to sharpen up these facets of his game, especially under one of the best coaching tickets of the world at Liverpool.
The Reds often look at players of what they can be and not what they are and, in Gonzalez, there is a player who *could* be a great signing for the Anfield club.
In a team of lesser ability than the Reds, the Argentinian forward has a non-penalty npXG — not penalty expected goal — figure of 0.53 per 90, which, across the course of a season, is 18 league goals.
Valued at €25,000,000 by Transfermarkt, Gonzalez — a quick, left-footed player who intelligently finds space in the box — could be an excellent short-term replacement for Shaqiri and, down the line, potentially Salah.
All Statistics sourced from www.fbref.com