Scouting Konoplyanka – Liverpool’s next big signing?
Liverpool are keen to add at least one top quality player to their squad before the January window closes, and if reports are to be believed, manager Brendan Rodgers is targeting Ukrainian attacker Yevhen Konoplyanka.
The Reds are certainly in need of reinforcement, as their current squad depth and strength pales in comparison to the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United. But most importantly, this is arguably the season where Liverpool should invest heavily, if they can, so as to give themselves a real chance of securing that coveted Champions League spot, and perhaps give themselves an outside shot at the Premier League title.
It would be a bitter blow if the Reds fail to qualify for UCL after making such a good start to the season. That is why this transfer window is so important for Liverpool, and it really cannot be wasted.
Liverpool players are holding down that fourth spot for now, but with fierce competition gradually coming from Spurs and Manchester United, Brendan Rodgers should not hesitate to snap up 2-3 quality players this month.
But Rodgers may have missed the boat.
Already they have lost one primary target, Mohamed Salah to Chelsea, and with only a couple of days remaining until the transfer window slams shut, Liverpool cannot afford to miss out again.
Although I am no expert on the Ukrainian, the matches I have seen him in (for his country and in the Europa League) leads me to say that Liverpool must pull out all the stops so as to secure Konoplyanka.
He is fast, skilful and agile. Unlike his compatriot, Andriy Yarmolenko, the 24-year-old winger seems to have a better reading of the game. His positional sense, range of passing, and excellent vision suggests so.
He can play as a conventional winger on the right side, inverted winger on the left-hand side where he likes to drift in and shoot, and he can also play centrally. His versatility makes him that bit more valuable a commodity.
He seems more dangerous playing on the left hand side, as he not only has the pace to get past the full-back, but also the required trickery to make space for a snap-shot or decisive pass.
Technically solid, his close control, first touch, and movement with the ball are excellent, plus he has the improvisational quality of a top winger like say Ribery or Hazard, and under the right manager, he could really blossom.
Konoplyanka would be a great asset for Liverpool, and Rodgers could draft him into any system of his choosing, such is his versatility.
He could be used in a fluid attacking three, swapping positions with Suarez or Coutinho. The Liverpool boss seems to have shifted from his earlier ideology of death by football, with an over-emphasis on possession football replaced by direct, ruthless attacking tactics.
This has led to Liverpool becoming a free-scoring outfit, only behind Manchester City in the Premier League goal-scoring charts.
The £18m fee quoted for Konoplyanka would be that statement of intent from Rodgers, and as long as the Ukrainian can adapt quickly to the pace and physicality of the English top flight, he could well be a superb acquisition for the high-flying Reds.