Opinion: Ollie Watkins would bring biggest Liverpool change in years


Opinion: Ollie Watkins would bring biggest Liverpool change in years

Liverpool want Ollie Watkins, according to reports. It’s a signing that would force the team’s biggest change in years.

Goal claims Liverpool rate Ollie Watkins very highly. They’re not entirely sure they can afford him but the Aston Villa forward is on their list.

The striker joined Villa last summer for a club-record £28m – there’s little doubt that he’d cost far more this time around. After all, he’s just enjoyed a wonderful debut Premier League campaign in which he scored 16 times.

Watkins is also a player Robbie Fowler recently picked out as ideal for Liverpool.

“I like Ollie Watkins at Villa,” Fowler told the Athletic. “When you start delving into how Liverpool play and how they press, his stats are perfect.

“He scores goals and his work rate is spot on. He looks like a Klopp player to me.

“Of course Villa wouldn’t want to lose him and he wouldn’t come cheap but he’s done very well since arriving from Brentford.”

We agreed with that estimation. Watkins presses brilliantly, can score goals, and can create for teammates. He’d be a fantastic fit and it’s no surprise that Liverpool reportedly like him.

But if the Reds did sign Watkins, it would bring about their biggest change in years.

Liverpool like Ollie Watkins

Watkins suits Liverpool as a no.9 but Liverpool don’t actually play with a traditional no.9. There’s no centre-forward who leads the line and runs in behind.

Instead, Roberto Firmino plays the role as a ‘False 9’. He vacates the space up top and drifts back into space behind where an attacking midfielder would be.

That draws defenders out and allows the wingers to attack the space he left – they’re the real goalscorers. The full-backs can then push very high up the pitch as the wingers move centrally.

Firmino playing in the attacking midfield space as a creator also allows Jurgen Klopp to lineup without an advanced midfielder. He instead goes for high-energy players who cover space and play box-to-box.

Photo by Martin Rickett – Pool/Getty Images

Liverpool have played this way for nearly four years. Ever since Philippe Coutinho left the club, really. It’s been a wildly successful way of playing that’s delivered every major trophy at club level.

But if you swap out Firmino for Watkins, the shape changes. Liverpool’s wingers would have as much central space to run into. There would also be a gap between midfield and attack that needs filling.

Now, it’s not impossible to make it all work but there would need to be new players and changes elsewhere. Perhaps something as simple as developing Curtis Jones to be an attacking midfielder can fix things. Maybe Harvey Elliott is the key.

Either way, Liverpool looking at Watkins suggests they’re open to something new and it would be the biggest change to the Reds’ playing style in a very long time.

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