By Hayden Boyle – @hayden_boyle
“Memphis Depay is a big-club player with a small-time attitude”
That’s how Adam White and Eric Devin of the Guardian described the Dutch forward in an article late last year.
Depay – or just Memphis as he prefers to be known – plies his trade with Ligue 1 giants Lyon. In 2017, the French club offered the Dutchman refuge from his torrid two-year spell at Manchester United which yielded only two goals.
Memphis was brought to England in 2015 by his compatriot Louis van Gaal after an exciting four year year spell at PSV. Much fanfare and hype surrounded his arrival in the summer of 2015 and as is so often the case, the Dutchman failed to make an impact.
The manager’s defensive tactics Old Trafford stifled Memphis’ natural game. Perhaps he was too colourful, too unpredictable for the pragmatic van Gaal who often employed a 4-2-3-1 system. He rarely went without two holding midfielders shielding the back four, a style you might not associate with a Dutchman from the 4-3-3 revolution.
Memphis was used as a ‘shadow striker’ of sorts in a No.10 role and when that failed, he was pushed out to the left. Unfortunately for Memphis a left forward’s role is as much about the midfield as it is attack and this clearly didn’t suit his game. Additionally, it was clear to the average punter watching the then 22-year-old that he wanted too long on the ball and the newfound defensive pressure of the Premier League came as a shock.
In 2019, Memphis is undoubtedly a better player. His time in France has improved his game and more importantly his confidence. In 35 Ligue 1 appearances the Dutchman recorded 10 goals and nine assists equating to a goal or assist every 139 minutes.
Whilst it is arguably an inferior competition, these are still good numbers from a versatile forward. In comparison, Roberto Firmino recorded a goal or an assist every 145 minutes in the 2018/19 season.
The stat that jumps out is Memphis’ chance creation, he averaged 3.6 chances created per 90 minutes during the 2018/19 campaign. Across Europe’s top five leagues, this puts Memphis third overall – exciting numbers from a man dubbed a flop only two years earlier. Liverpool’s current closest was Mo Salah recording 1.9 chances created per 90 for the season.
Defensive contribution is obviously key in a Klopp team, he demands that the team defends and attacks as a unit. This is where Memphis’ numbers drop off and perhaps it isn’t surprising that his tackle rate of 0.4% per 90 is the lowest when compared against any Liverpool’s current forwards, including Daniel Sturridge at 0.5% per 90.
It is without any doubt that if Liverpool were to sign the Dutchman his work-rate in tracking back, pressing and tackling would need vast improvement.
The rumours surrounding a Memphis transfer to Anfield have intensified in recent days. Notably, two of his good friends in Gini Wijnaldum and Virgil van Dijk have featured in social media posts. Is Gini ‘tapping up’ his mate Memphis? Who knows, but the speculation will grow after Echo journalist James Pearce confirmed Liverpool were in the market for a versatile forward.
The famous front three of Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino continue to fire and there is no talk of replacing or breaking the trio up, but a quality, creative and versatile forward like Memphis would make the Liverpool squad more formidable going into 2019/20.
Squad depth is becoming a strength of the modern Liverpool, with the possibility of games in five different competitions next season, Klopp’s ability to replace quality with quality has never been more important.
Movement on players should become clearer after the Champions League final on June 1, and if Memphis is to pull on the red shirt, he best be prepared to become a big-club player with a big-time attitude.