Football statistics analysts WhoScored.com give you the lowdown on a rumoured Liverpool target…
The Africa Cup of Nations looks set to ravage a number of Premier League teams in the New Year. Defending champions Leicester are likely to be without Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani due to the competition, Everton will be forced to make do without Yannick Bolasie and Idrissa Gueye, while West Ham and Stoke are expected to lose Cheikhou Kouyate and Mame Biram Diouf respectively, as Senegal look to secure glory in the tournament for the first time in their history.
Their chances of success improve with Sadio Mane in such fine form for Liverpool. The 24-year-old has gained a WhoScored.com rating of 7.87 in the Premier League this season, the fifth best return in the division. However, Mane is more than likely to receive the call up to the Senegal national side, which would significantly hamper Liverpool’s attacking approach. Alongside Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho, the Reds have arguably the best frontline in England, with Jurgen Klopp’s side scoring more goals (30) than any other Premier League side.
Mane’s anticipated absence, then, will dent Liverpool’s title hopes and with Daniel Sturridge struggling to adhere to the high pressing demands set out by Klopp, it’s rumoured that the Merseysiders will dip into the transfer market in January to improve the squad. The supposed number one target is Borussia Dortmund youngster Christian Pulisic. The teenage wideman was heavily linked with a move to Anfield in the summer, but any switch to England failed to materialise, with Dortmund the obvious beneficiaries.
Indeed, only Andrej Kramaric (5) has registered more assists than Pulisic (4) in the Bundesliga this season to help return a WhoScored.com rating of 7.15, one of the best of teenagers in Europe’s top five leagues. Furthermore, only teammate Ousmane Dembele (6) has created more clear-cut goalscoring opportunities than Pulisic (5) in Germany’s top tier this term. This selflessness in the final third has helped quickly endear him to Dortmund fans and importantly, Thomas Tuchel, with the 18-year-old starting six of the club’s 10 league games this season having made just five league starts last term.
Tuchel’s decision to hand Pulisic a more influential role in the side is having a positive effect, with Dortmund scoring more goals per game with the American in the starting XI (2.83) than without him (2). Following the summer arrivals of Andre Schurrle, Emre Mor and Dembele, Pulisic’s first team chances could have been limited, but the poor form of the former duo, coupled with Marco Reus’ ongoing injury problems, means the teenager was handed the chance to stake a claim for a regular starting spot and he’s grabbed the opportunity with both hands, with he and Dembele forming an effective wide duo for Dortmund.
Starting from wide, Pulisic is able to maximise his dribbling quality to help hurt opponents. Only Naby Keita (70%) has a better success rate than Pulisic (68%) of players to attempt 20 or more dribbles in the Bundesliga this term, with the United States international maximising his unpredictability to break through defences. It’s this trait, plus others, that make the player such an appealing target for Klopp.
Liverpool’s attack is based on the versatility of the front three, with Mane, Coutinho and Firmino all willingly drifting across the final third in search of space. While Pulisic has regularly started on the right, he happily carries the ball infield in a similar fashion to Liverpool’s scalpel sharp triumvirate. When Mane is unavailable in the New Year, Pulisic seems a logical fit to cover for the Senegalese attacker’s absence provided Liverpool can convince Dortmund to sell. With reports suggesting Klopp will be backed in the market, the Bundesliga giants must be prepared for any possible offers for the teenage sensation in January.