Ethan Golding discusses everything you need to know about Liverpool target Adrian Rabiot.
Towards the end of the summer transfer window, Liverpool were linked with a January move for Paris Saint Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot. These rumours have arisen once again with reports circulating that Liverpool have been in touch with Rabiot’s agent, who is also his mother.
In a general sense, Rabiot is comparable to top young box to box midfielders across Europe such as Sergej Milinković-Savić and Naby Keita. The 23-year-old Frenchman’s secondary position is at the base of a three-man midfield, performing defensive duties as well as breaking forward on the counter.
The attacking role previously performed by Philippe Coutinho, and momentarily by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, is currently filled by Liverpool’s new number 8. While much of Keita’s natural game makes him a perfect fit for the transitional midfield position currently being performed by James Milner, the lack of a specialist attacking midfield means it is unlikely that the Guinean will drop back into the box to box role.
If Liverpool were to successfully lure the Frenchman to Anfield he would likely operate in the middle of Klopp’s staggered midfield three.
This role is all about setting the press and helping the midfield transition from defence to attack and is where the Liverpool faithful saw the best of Adam Lallana and is where Gini Wijlnaldum would predominately operate prior to his deputising at the base of midfield while Jordan Henderson finds fitness and new signing Fabinho adapts and learns Klopp’s system of play.
While Rabiot is a less fluid attacker than the likes of Naby Keita, he is an accomplished dribbler. Rabiot completed 1.2 dribbles per game last season, nearly identical to Gini Wijnaldum’s 1.3. It is slightly better than Adam Lallana’s 1.1 dribbles per game from his last season as a starter in 2016/17.
Both Rabiot and Wijnaldum were dispossessed 1.1 times per game, where as Lallana 1.7. In that season Lallana played 2350 minutes, which compares fairly to Wijnaldum’s 2387 and Rabiot’s 2366 last season.
When these three seasons are compared, Rabiot’s defensively orientated style is evident. While he contributed to 6 goals (1G, 5A), more than Wijnaldum’s 3 (1G, 2A), Lallana is far ahead of him contributing to 15 goals (8G, 7A) from a similar transitional position.
However, from a similar number of mi,nutes Rabiot was only taking 0.7 shots per game compared to Wijnaldum’s 1.2 and Lallana’s 1.6 shots per game.
Rabiot is clearly a calm head in the centre of the park, similar to Liverpool’s Number 5. However, he is also more daring and involved in the running of games. While in Lallana’s best season he was producing an impressive 1.4 key passes per game (Rabiot 0.8, Wijnaldum 0.7), both he and Wijnaldum were making less than 50 passes per game (Lallana 45.4, Wijnaldum 38.4) whereas Rabiot made 66.5 passes per game on average last season.
He was also completing a higher percentage of these passes, 92.2% compared to Wijnaldum and Lallana’s 89.9% and 84.3% respectfully. Out of these passes, Rabiot made 2.4 long balls per game compared to Wijnaldum’s 1.4 and Lallana’s 0.9.
So in an offensive sense, Rabiot would provide similar enough numbers to those produced by the box to box midfielders already at Liverpool who have predominately played in this role. In a defensive sense, it is a whole other story. Rabiot made 1.8 tackles per game and 1 interception last season. While Lallana’s 1.6 from the 16/17 season is in the same ball park, neither his .6 interceptions or Wijnaldum’s 1 tackle and .8 interception really come close.
Lallana’s comparatively more attacking mindset saw him dribbled past 1.3 times per game, and while Wijnaldum’s .4 is marginally better than Rabiot’s .6, the Dutchman is four years older than the Frenchman and discrepancies such as this and his 1.1 fouls per game (Wijnaldum .4, Lallana .5) are usually remedied by experience and coaching.
However, with Fabinho likely to be Liverpool’s first choice defensive midfielder eventually, it is not a pressing concern for Rabiot to add more discipline to his game as many of the fouls he’d commit would most likely occur further up the pitch.
So far this season, Rabiot has made four appearances and has already managed 1 goal, 4 tackles, 1.3 interceptions and .3 blocks per game, maintaining and improving on his numbers from last season.
All in and all, the signing of Adrien Rabiot would be a sensible investment. Transfermarkt value the midfielder in the region of £45million so if he were to be available in January at a cut price or possible free on a pre contract, his signature could potentially represent the bargain of Klopp’s tenure, which is saying something.