Saturday 21 April 2018

Why Liverpool's move for Monaco winger Thomas Lemar makes sense

Thomas Lemar of Monaco
Thomas Lemar of Monaco

Mark Critchley

With Liverpool 3-0 up in the 77th minute, Roberto Firmino collects the ball out on the right flank, skips a Nacho Monreal tackle and passes inside to Emre Can.

 The midfielder, in his new marauding role, carries the play forward, shrugging off Rob Holding and releasing Mohamed Salah.

Salah looks up, curls a fine cross to the far post where Daniel Sturridge heads in from close range.

Sadio Mané was sitting on the bench at the time. Adam Lallana was sidelined through injury. Philippe Coutinho was not at Anfield, but the club are adamant he will be once again after the close of the transfer window on Thursday.

When you consider all this and then the ongoing defensive issues at Anfield, the addition of another attacking player to Jürgen Klopp’s squad seems unnecessary. Yet interest in Monaco's Thomas Lemar makes sense.

Klopp’s style of play famously demands much from his players, but makes special demands of those in the frontline.

The move for that fourth goal against Arsenal on Sunday came at the end of a high-octane performance full of quick counters, but it was just as incisive as those made in the opening stages.

Like the moves that preceded the second and third goals, it featured direct running at pace and at length. Liverpool's forwards are expected to do that repeatedly.

Then there is also the defensive side of their responsibilities. Salah, Mané and especially Firmino are often just as off the ball as they are on it.

All three are expected to lead the press from the front, denying their opponents the opportunity to build attacks from the back.

Surprisingly, despite their superiority on Sunday, Liverpool actually saw marginally less of the ball than Arsenal. This meant only more work for their forwards. 

Players in this Liverpool attack need stamina in reserve until the final whistle and at the moment, after a summer without an international football tournament and a full pre-season, they have it. Will they be so explosive come November?

That question has to be a concern for Klopp and several other top-flight managers. This year’s Premier League calendar features a scarcely-believable run of 10 fixtures in less than five weeks between 25 November and 1 January – a period which could define the seasons of many clubs.

Liverpool start it by entertaining champions Chelsea, face a Merseyside derby in the middle and travel to the Emirates two days before Christmas.

If Liverpool are to negotiate that period successfully, they will need their attack - the strongest part of their side - to be on top form and in peak condition.

Mané’s African Cup of Nations exploits and an ankle injury to Coutinho left them light up front during the winter last season.

The addition of Salah this term has helped, but Liverpool remain only one or two injuries away from the promising but raw teenager Ben Woodburn being called into the match day squad. Dominic Solanke, another talented youngster, was named among the substitutes on Sunday.

Indeed, below Sunday’s starting front three and Coutinho, the options are either untested or unreliable.

Divock Origi’s encouraging development stunted last season while Sturridge is a fantastic player who is rarely fit enough.

The inclusion of either diminishes Liverpool’s attack and, given Klopp’s defensive problems every now and again, there will be times this season when he needs his frontline firing in order to take wins from tight, high-scoring games.

Yes, there are fires to fight in other areas of the squad, namely at centre-back, but if Liverpool can afford to strengthen there and up front by adding a highly-rated, 21-year-old rising star, they should.

Independent News Service

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