On Thursday evening, Liverpool finally confirmed that it had agreed on a deal in principle to make Celta Vigo forward Iago Aspas their second transfer signing of the summer.
Via the official club website, the Reds confirmed that an agreement with Aspas' club in Spain, and the deal would be completed after the usual paperwork was taken care of. The Spaniard follows Kolo Toure in committing himself to playing at Anfield next season, as manager Brendan Rodgers gets serious about his rebuilding the team in what is his third transfer window since arriving at Liverpool.
Sky Sports were reporting the deal to be worth around £7.7 million, or close to €9 million.
Late in May, when the rumours about Aspas to Liverpool first broke, we took a look at his abilities and why the fans should be pleased he was joining early in the window. Now that the deal is confirmed, we can look more into how he will be used as part of the squad at Anfield.
Iago Aspas: His Main Positions and Secondary Roles
As most are aware by now, Iago Aspas is a well-rounded forward. Though he is capable of playing more or less anywhere across the front line, his main position is as a centre-forward, where he can play by himself with support from behind or as part of a duo.
Though he can lead the line with aplomb, he is not the typical on-the-shoulder poacher kind of striker, instead working the entire width of the defence to create space and opportunities for himself and his teammates.
When the support is good from the second line of attack, Aspas' real strengths will be seen. He can work the channels extremely well on both sides of the penalty box, and he is not afraid to commit to a defender in a one-on-one situation, without being as single-minded and repetitive in the dribble as, for example, Luis Suarez.
Aspas' skills, therefore, lend him to be rather ideally suited as a second forward, playing a high position but with an even more direct attacker beside him—perhaps an ideal partner, therefore, for Daniel Sturridge at Liverpool.
The Spanish forward can also operate from a starting position on either flank, not as a winger but as additional support for the central attackers.
Liverpool's Attacking Tactical Deployment
Under Brendan Rodgers, however, the rest of the midfield has lined up, the Reds have opted most often for a single central attacking midfielder, a creative hub who has to receive the ball often and try to open up opposition defences.
In front and to the side of him are two wide forwards. Stewart Downing played more or less as a disciplined wide attacker during the second half of the season, but on the ball, his remit was still to break infield and leave space outside of him for the fullbacks to break into.
And, of course, there is a central striker. Depending on who plays, this role is filled in a variety of ways for Liverpool.
It is that great variation which will become the hallmark of the Reds' attack over the coming season, which is another reason that Aspas will be such a good fit.
Luis Suarez remains a Liverpool player and arguably the best forward in the Premier League. Daniel Sturridge will be a key player next season, fitness permitting, and fans will hope he can keep up a strike rate which saw him hit 11 goals in 16 games since joining in January.
Fabio Borini, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling are also to be important parts of the attack next term, with Stewart Downing also set to be involved unless market moves dictate otherwise.
Add in Aspas, and that is seven players who will fight for the four attacking positions—and then, the likes of Suso, Jordan Henderson and Oussama Assaidi will also be hoping to get game time there, though they can play elsewhere or might be headed out of Anfield.
The Role Iago Aspas will Take on at Liverpool
So, how does the newest addition to the squad fit in?
In all likelihood, he's not being signed as a first XI player—which isn't to say he isn't going to start matches. He will. Liverpool need to have around 16 or 17 "first XI" options, meaning Brendan Rodgers is able to switch about two or three positions for any given game without seeing a noticeable drop in quality and match-winning potential in the team.
Given where Liverpool ideally need to improve, Aspas adds great depth to the attacking side of things, and his versatility will see him fit in very well.
Considering a "preferred quartet" of Coutinho, Sturridge, Suarez and one new addition, such as rumoured target Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Iago Aspas could conceivably be the fifth-choice forward for the four attacking roles, filling in at each role as needed.
With everybody fit and big opposition to play, perhaps Aspas—form dependent—wouldn't be an automatic pick to start. But he would be another good option off the bench to play, and taking into account his likely game time over the course of the season, the Reds could hope to get double-figures from him in goals.
And for an attacker coming in at less than £10 million and not being the big attacking signing of the summer, that is pretty good business from Liverpool to kick off the summer with.