If there is one thing that this Liverpool side has lacked since the sale of Philippe Coutinho, it is that creative midfielder with the quality to unlock defences – especially deep-sitting ones. Every top team has one, and it seems like the position that would push Liverpool right to the top. And fit centre-backs, of course, but that’s an entirely different article.
We hoped the Reds might have solved that issue with the signing of Thiago Alcântara from Bayern Munich last summer, but the Spaniard has since shown that his best position is as a deeper lying playmaker rather than someone who pushes further into the final third.
In recent times, Liverpool have found themselves linked with Rodrigo De Paul, currently of Serie A side Udinese. With the 26-year-old’s current employers in the bottom half of the table in Italy, the midfield magician would undoubtedly be keen on the move to progress his career. Even if the Friulani were doing better, a move to the six-time European champions is still a huge step up.
But, as is always the question, would the midfielder be a good fit at Anfield?
The Argentine has seven goal contributions for the season thus far. This, in comparison to the current crop of Reds midfielders, would see him sit atop the pile comfortably. Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum are the current leaders in this statistic at Anfield, but they have only managed to muster two contributions apiece. When the Udinese midfielders’ statistics are analysed further you realise how good his particular number is.
The northerners have found goals hard to come by and have very little going forwards. Yet, De Paul still manages 2.89 passes to leading to shots per game. This would surely rise if he made the move to Merseyside with the elite attacking players around him.
With Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and Diogo Jota up top, his assist numbers could explode. Much like Bruno Fernandes’ have at Manchester United – he’s just three off the best tally of his career, and still has 10 more games in which to match or beat it.
As well as this, the attacking midfielder attempts 13 pressures per 90, being successful in an average 3.9 of them. This is very similar to the likely outgoing fan favourite Georginio Wijnaldum, who is renowned for his pressing and attempts 11.9 per match.
One of De Paul’s best characteristics has been his dribbling from deep, which could bring a whole new dimension to the Reds’ play. This season, the Argentine has three successful dribbles per game which puts him top of the list once again, with Naby Keïta the only midfielder who has proven himself to be reliable when dribbling from deep in the current Liverpool squad. However, with the Guinean’s injury-hit past a big problem, the De Paul’s more reliable fitness record makes him a more attractive option.
The Argentine wouldn’t just add creativity though. On the defensive end, the 26-year-old is making his fair share of tackles, that much so he matches the output of Oranje international Wijnaldum in a game. What really impresses though is that De Paul makes a lot of his tackles in the defensive third, which could really help with the defensive issues that the Reds have suffered this season.
He is also completing more blocks than anyone in the Liverpool squad this season, as well as 0.5 interceptions per game. On top of everything, at the young age of 26, the Argentina international will be reaching his prime in the not-too-distant future.
With the majority of Liverpool’s midfield options now ageing – Henderson, Wijnaldum, Thiago and Fabinho are all heading towards their 30s, while James Milner played with their granddads – signing the Udinese man as a younger option would help set this side up for the next few years.
De Paul is the kind of player Reds fans have been calling out for – bringing the midfield creativity that has been lacking ever since Coutinho left for Barcelona. He would be the ideal signing but, instead of replacing Wijnaldum, De Paul would arguably function best alongside the Dutch midfielder.
For now, we’ll have to wait and see if it materialises.
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