Scouting Report: Why Liverpool Must Sign Lorient Defender Raphael Guerreiro

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Scouting Report: Why Liverpool Must Sign Lorient Defender Raphael Guerreiro
Source: Icon Sport

Liverpool should be looking to sign a new left-back in the summer window and a suggested transfer target is Lorient's 5'7" Portuguese youth international Raphael Guerreiro.

So here is a scouting report on the energetic and forward-thinking 20-year-old left-back.

 

Left-Back Woes

Liverpool need to address their dearth of talent at left-back: Aly Cissokho is not Liverpool-standard, Jon Flanagan is a right-back—not a left-back—and Jose Enrique is recuperating from knee surgery. 

Cissokho, on loan from Valencia, has been fodder for criticism, which is amplified when he is being slated by former Liverpool players. 

Jimmy Case, who played 269 times for Liverpool, questioned Cissokho's footballing acumen. 

"His control isn't there or his first touch," Case said, per BBC Radio Merseyside (h/t 5times). "He doesn't have the intelligence to follow the fluency of play."

Michael Owen, who scored 158 goals for the Reds, compared Cissokho's inadequate technique to the hapless Djimi Traore, per Dan Lucas at the Telegraph

Remember, it would have been Liverpool or relegation-threatened Sunderland, a team Cissokho had agreed "personal terms" with, per Pete O'Rourke at Sky Sports.

Cissokho is broad-shouldered and he tries hard, but he is a Roy Hodgson-type player, not a Rodgers-type player (under Hodgson, Liverpool flirted with the relegation zone).

"Stay behind the ball," Rodgers said to Flanagan, per Being: Liverpool (h/t Andy Hunter at the Guardian). "You're not the one bombing on for fun, Cafu."

Rodgers' Cafu remark was sarcastic.

That was in 2012 and, two years later, Cafu tweeted that he needed to see more of Flanagan, also known as the "Red Cafu," which prompted Flanagan to say, per Liverpool's official website: "You think is it real and did he really tweet that? For him to notice me and say he's going to watch me is just brilliant."

Flanagan has slotted in at left-back because Cissokho is a defensive liability and Enrique's future is up in the air. 

Enrique, who has not played a Premier League game since the 4-0 win over Fulham, is "nowhere near playing yet," according to Rodgers, per Liverpool's official website.

Unless Rodgers plans on turning Flanagan into Paolo Maldini (the Italian is a right-footer, who played at left-back), it is counter-productive for Flanagan to be starting at left-back when he is a right-back. 

This is why Liverpool must have a big board of left-backs to pursue in the summer transfer window and Guerreiro of Lorient should be a target.

 

Positives 

Guerreiro is one of the fastest players in Ligue 1, a subjective view that Nice right-back Gregoire Puel will corroborate.  

Puel made the mistake of lunging forward, only to watch Guerreiro speed away, deliver a piercing cross to Lorient centre-forward Vincent Aboubakar whose header hit the post.

Source: Ligue1.com

Late in the game, Guerreiro read the play expertly and intercepted a pass from Nice central midfielder Didier Digard, accelerated forward and offloaded the ball to Alain Traore, who went on to create a goal for Aboubakar.

Source: Ligue1.com

That interception was in stoppage time, so Guerreiro possesses high energy levels and he is a natural ball-winner: 75 interceptions in 26 Ligue 1 games.

In a 1-1 draw against Lyon, with Lorient down a goal in the 93rd minute, Guerreiro casually sent in a cross which just floated over Lyon centre-back Samuel Umtiti, yet was slightly ahead of left-back Henri Bedimo.

In between the two was Traore, who netted a dramatic late equaliser for Lorient.

Again, Guerreiro displayed superb stamina.

Source: Ligue1.com

 

Negatives

When you watch Guerreiro play, his tackling is still a work in progress.

Full-backs who average 1.3 tackles per game either only jockey and have exceptional positional awareness or do not prefer tackling.

Guerreiro fits the latter part, hence why he averages 2.9 interceptions per game, the eighth highest average in Ligue 1, whereas 152 players in France's top flight average more tackles per game (1.4+) than Guerreiro (1.3).

This was evident when Guerreiro's mistimed tackle on Guingamp right winger Claudio Beauvue led to him squaring the ball to Mustapha Yatabare, who scored his second in a 2-0 win over Lorient.

Source: Ligue1.com

Guerreiro made an embarrassing error when he fluffed his attempted clearance against Marseille.

The ball fortuitously fell to Andre-Pierre Gignac, Marseille's leading scorer in league play, and he scored what turned out to be the winning goal in a 1-0 win over Lorient.

Source: Ligue1.com

 

Bottom Line

Liverpool supporters who have extensive footballing knowledge probably want the club to sign Wolfsburg's 21-year-old Ricardo Rodriguez, arguably the best left-back in Europe this season (five goals, four assists, 70 tackles, 46 interceptions).

Wolfsburg, however, are flexing their financial muscle.

They signed Luiz Gustavo from Bayern Munich for €20 million, per Stephan Uersfeld at ESPN FC, and spent another €20 million to sign Kevin De Bruyne from Chelsea, per the Telegraph.

Wolfsburg are bankrolled by Volkswagen, a company worth €92.4 billion, per Christoph Rauwald at Bloomberg, so given their recent big spending, it is highly unlikely that they would sell Rodriguez, who has world-class potential, in the upcoming summer transfer window.

Wolfsburg signing Rodriguez from FC Zurich will go down as one of the greatest scouting revelations in recent Bundesliga memory (this is the same club that signed Edin Dzeko from Teplice).

Point being: Liverpool should seriously consider taking a calculated gamble on Guerreiro, who is an elite interceptor, has a strong motor, is lightning quick and is only 20 years old.

Yes, he needs to work on his tackling and must be more proficient in the attacking half (only one assist thus far in Ligue 1).

However, he has immense upside, so if Liverpool do not sign him, he could be emulating Rodriguez's success in several years' time for another notable club in Europe's elite leagues.

 

@allanjianga

Statistics via WhoScored

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