Martin King explains why both Wilfred Zaha and Nabil Fekir are perfect fits for the team that Jürgen Klopp is assembling to launch an attack on the Premier League title.
The 2018 summer transfer window opens on Thursday and as ever, rumours about incomings and outgoings have been dominating the headlines by the minute.
A couple of those have linked Liverpool with moves for Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Nabil Fekir and Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha. As it stands, the validity of the stories remains in the dark and neither of the clubs have given anything of note away – which is probably for the best, considering everyone knows the results of too much press!
Whatever the outcome, Reds fans should be pleased with the knowledge their club are reportedly targeting players of Fekir and Zaha’s ability, for the sole reason that one of the biggest questions Jürgen Klopp is yet to answer as manager is of identity: just who and what is this current Liverpool team without their famed front-three?
Liverpool’s front-three: With and without
‘Dangerous’; ‘superb’; ‘a nightmare’; ‘amazing’; ‘lethal’; ‘fabulous’; ‘the best’.
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The superlatives to describe Liverpool’s front-three are endless and with a combined 90 goals in all competitions this season, you can understand why.
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino have undoubtedly carried Klopp’s side from the front in this campaign, combining attributes such as pace, movement, creativity, graft and a ruthless finishing ability to help Liverpool reach the Champions League final and secure European football for next season.
The question remains, however, in case of injury or vital squad rotation, does Klopp’s team have what it takes to maintain the standard the trio so often sets?
A look at four of the current best alternatives to the three doesn’t suggest they do. Danny Ings, Dominic Solanke, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana have just seven goals combined this season, with Lallana having none of those to his name.
Understandably enough, the reasons behind these low figures are more circumstantial than it is down to the four players. Lallana has endured wretched luck in terms of injuries since last summer, Ings is still bouncing back from his own misfortune, Solanke has simply suffered from the success of the front-three, while Oxlade-Chamberlain (like all of Liverpool’s midfielders) played the role of supporting that success until the injury woes that plagued his teammates struck him.
Put simply, it was beyond these players’ control and it’s safe to say they will each receive more chances to redeem themselves in future. That, however, doesn’t take away the need for better attacking quality to be purchased by the club, for the purpose of maintaining Liverpool’s form outside of Salah, Mané and Firmino.
The supporting cast
Back to Fekir and Zaha then.
The duo possesses similar attributes to Liverpool’s front-three. Both are excellent dribblers, clever on and off the ball, quick and natural play-makers anywhere across the front-line. For every lung-bursting run Zaha makes, there’s a key pass in Fekir to find him; for every foul that goes Zaha’s way in advanced areas, there’s deadly technical ability in Fekir to put the ball past the goalkeeper from long range.
They compliment the teams they play for, which means they would only add to the quality of the Merseyside club’s attack in support of the first choice trio. Fekir’s 23 goals and Zaha’s nine this season would also shake things up among the current crop of alternative attackers, providing a much-needed look over the shoulder and depth for the overall squad.
Not that his name needs mentioning, but signing Fekir or Zaha would also do a lot to fill the hole left by Philippe Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona.
Trust in Klopp
The ball is once again in manager Klopp’s court and considering the work he’s done in five transfer windows thus far and the results that have been yielded, there is more than enough reason to trust that he will discover and meet Liverpool’s needs in the upcoming summer transfer window yet again.
Investing in the team’s defence wisely is crucial but just as important will be ensuring that the Anfield faithful has heroes apart from Salah, Mané and Firmino. Moving for either one of (or both) Fekir and Zaha is a great step towards establishing that.
The point isn’t to go out and get these two and only these two, rather to get them or players of a similar mould to them for the Reds’ attacking department.
Fitting them all into one team will never be an easy job, but that’s only one of the problems managers face on the path to success and right now, Liverpool wouldn’t want any other man dealing with that small matter beside Klopp.
Over to you, Jürgen.