Silly season could not be better encapsulated than the failed transfer of Thomas Lemar to Liverpool. In the space of two days from when Liverpool’s interest was first reported, it took over Twitter and all other social media.
Liverpool fans got their hopes up about signing a player whose exposure to the world has only been brief. Despite the disappointment of not getting Lemar, one should remember that Jürgen Klopp’s reign has seen the club chase after many players whom the fans have forgotten about soon after. In recent times, the German has gone after the likes of Alex Teixeira, Mario Götze and Mahmoud Dahoud, but life has gone on without them.
Monaco’s demands for Lemar and a lack of time left in the window seemed to scupper any potential move. Reports seemed to suggest that the Reds were willing to pay up to €75 million for the 21-year-old, but Monaco wanted roughly €25 million more for the player. Spending that much on an inexperienced prospect whose place in the starting XI was not yet guaranteed may not have been a wise investment.
That would seem to be the end of the story, and perhaps Lemar will enter the annuls as another player Liverpool failed to capture. In this case, this is a player for whom the Reds should consider breaking their rules for and returning this January.
First and foremost, Lemar’s greatest attribute is his pace. In the counter- attacking system Klopp likes to use, this is the key ingredient for any player who plays in the attacking positions. He would therefore not disapoint in this regard.
He is also adept at beating a man with the ball. With his superb dribbling skills, small stature and low centre of gravity, he is able to drift past players. Importantly, he has the ability to beat a man from standstill, not relying on his pace to get around an opponent.
Like Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, Lemar is able to play from both the right and the left, and he has at times dropped deeper into a midfield role. He has the ability to play a short, sharp passing game, and is equally skilled at picking out cross-field passes and through balls. He would be able to provide quality within multiple positions.
Lemar’s goal return may not measure up as favourably to other wide forwards; in his career he has averaged roughly one goal every five matches. Yet, he seemed to discover the goal-scoring touch last season, scoring 14 times. At such a young age, it is not so surprising that this aspect of his game has improved only now.
Lemar has the potential to be much more potent in front of goal. He has a powerful and accurate shot, and is also able to bend a free kick into the top corner, offering a left-footed alternative to Philippe Coutinho. If he is able to carry on his scoring form from last season, he will provide a dangerous threat from out wide.
More important than goals is his potential contribution to assists. His 17 registered last season topped even Liverpool’s most successful creator, Georginio Wijnaldum. The quality of the balls which he puts into the box massively helped increase his number of assists. He has a sweet left foot and would provide Liverpool with a real dead-ball specialist. and his crossing is just as good on the run.
Liverpool play with inverted wingers, but having a player who is comfortable playing wide and crossing the ball would offer a new dimension to the attack. Roberto Firmino, at almost six feet tall, is an underrated aerial threat and the signing of Dominic Solanke may well hint at a potential change in how Klopp wants the ball put into the box.
Lemar offers cover for the two types of wide forwards that the current side has. Although not quite as skilful at dribbling as Coutinho, he offers a similar technical ability. He would also provide the raw pace on the break which has been such a characteristic of Liverpool’s early-season play. He offers a highly technical skill set as an inverted winger from the right or as a natural left-footer from the left.
What’s more, Lemar has the passing game to provide Liverpool with cover in midfield, meaning he will add top quality depth to at least four positions in the squad. Despite being only 21, he has already racked up 130 career appearances, including several in the Champions League, and has played in a title-winning side.
Liverpool lack quality and depth from out wide. While it can be argued right now that the side’s wingers are amongst the best in the league, with no Adam Lallana and Coutinho probably moving to midfield, their first sub for Salah and Mané is now most likely new signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The only problem is that the ex-Arsenal man moved to Liverpool in the hope of gaining a more central role. Beyond him, the next choice is probably James Milner.
Liverpool’s high-pressing style of play is demanding. A player who can allow for the two wide men to get a break without dropping the level of the team is vital. If Klopp intends to mount a season-long title challenge rather than one that falls apart in January, greater depth from out wide is needed.
Even though Coutinho’s move to Barca didn’t materialise this time, it would be naïve to believe that the reprieve will be for more than a season. Klopp’s success at Dortmund was often due to the fact that he had experienced players to step in as soon as a star left. If Lemar is a possible long-term replacement for Coutinho, snapping him up as soon as possible and allowing him half a season to adapt makes good sense.
Monaco are in a strong negotiating position after the amount of money they brought in this window. If Liverpool want Lemar in January, they will have to pay a premium. Regardless, this is what top players csot these days. The 21-year-old has proved himself to be an extremely talented player in the Ligue 1, the Champions League and even international football. He will no doubt develop into a world-class player, so there is no reason why Liverpool should pass up the opportunity to have him develop with them.
Embed from Getty Images