Unconventional Luiz Diaz transfer can breathe new life into Liverpool frontline

Recruiting new players for Liverpool is not an easy task thanks to the demands which Jurgen Klopp places upon his team.

Where can you possibly hope to find a right-back who plays like Trent Alexander-Arnold, or a goalkeeper who can sweep up with the calm authority of Alisson Becker, for example? There aren’t many such players out there.

It’s a similar story at the attacking end of the team, in the sense that there’s aren’t many sides who routinely play a front three. Diogo Jota had done so with Nuno Espirito Santo’s frequent use of a 3-4-3 formation but players with similar experience are not ten a penny.

But this is where the recruitment team’s ability to think outside the box with their targets comes into play, and it’s possible they may have identified a Liverpool forward of the future.

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The Reds are poised to complete a deal for Porto winger Luis Diaz, as they hijacked Tottenham Hotspur’s £49 million pursuit of the player.

The 24-year-old is a left midfielder in Sergio Conceicao’s 4-4-2 formation, so it isn’t immediately apparent how he would fit into the Reds’ tactical framework.

However, a closer look at his statistics shows the profile of a player who is more comfortable shooting rather than creating, suggesting he could play as a wide forward.

For instance, Sadio Mane has taken 1.6 shots for every chance he has created in the Premier League for Liverpool. Mohamed Salah’s average for the Reds is 2.0, but Diaz is currently at 2.1 (albeit he only has 70 league games in Portugal under his belt at this point).

And while this might lead to the unfounded accusations of selfishness which seem to have plagued Salah at times, Diaz has set up more chances per 90 minutes with each passing season at Porto, so his balance between shooting and creating is getting healthier.

This could be seen when Liverpool won 5-1 at the Estadio do Dragao in September. Shortly after Salah had scored the Reds’ third goal, Diaz received the ball out near the left touchline. He carried it into the box, dribbled past Liverpool’s number 11 who had tracked back to cover, and then provided Vitinha with Porto’s first clear-cut chance of the contest.

An ability to beat opponents with the ball is one of Diaz’ key skills – only three players in Portugal’s Primeira Liga have completed more take-ons in 2021/22 ( per Whoscored ) – but he displayed his shooting prowess to fine effect in the two matches with AC Milan.

The Colombian international (who has scored against both Brazil and Argentina in the past) netted the winner in Porto’s home match against Milan when he fired home a loose ball from the edge of the penalty area.

Then, in the return fixture, a fine run from former Liverpool man Marko Grujic enabled him to find Diaz in space, leaving the winger ample time to stroke the ball past both goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu and the defenders covering the goal line.

It appears he does his best work in situations such as these, as 20 of his 21 league goals in Portuguese football have come from within the penalty area. He’s clearly not the kind of winger who cuts in from the flank and unleashes a shot from long range.

Diaz seems to be improving in this regard too, as 60 percent of his shots were taken from inside the box in 2019/20, 70 percent last season and now 83 percent in this campaign. If you exclude full time centre-forwards and men with less than 250 minutes of playing time, then no player in Portugal averages more shots per 90 in the box in 2021/22.

Statistics accurate as of November 11.

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