It’s been a strange season for Liverpool. For all of the criticism sent their way the Reds have been in the race for a Champions League berth until now, despite the fact that a goal on Steven Gerrard appreciation day from the man himself at Stamford Bridge saw the departing skipper jump to the outright lead in terms of the club’s top goalscorers, with just 8.
Sunday’s was also a game in which Chelsea’s defenders, courtesy of John Terry’s early opener, stretched their scoring advantage over Liverpool’s strikers (9 to 7). For the Merseysiders, the presence of a fully fit and in form forward has been the one thing that has prevented them a place in Europe’s elite club competition.
It’s no surprise then that Liverpool have been linked with a number of big money signings to arrest their striking woes this season, with the likes of Benteke, Aubameyang and Icardi all apparent targets. However, in a week in which the Reds have seemingly moved a step closer to completing a deal for Burnley’s Danny Ings, WhoScored.com take a look at a number of the young, affordable alternatives they could have targeted in Ings’ stead.
We start our search in France, where Liverpool were active last summer in securing a deal for Lille’s Divock Origi. The Belgian is set to return to Anfield this summer but after a quiet season in Ligue 1, netting just 4 of 8 goals from open play – and three in a single match – it’s fair to say the fans’ enthusiasm for his arrival has waned after an eye-catching World Cup campaign.
Elsewhere in the French top-flight, however, Origi’s compatriot Michy Batshuayi has been making waves after a slow start to his Marseille career. With Bielsa’s side now in real danger of missing out on a Champions League place next season, their prized assets could yet be stripped, and while he only signed for l’OM from Standard Liege last summer Batshuayi is among those sure to be attracting interest.
In just 872 minutes of league action this season Belgium’s 21-year old international has scored an impressive 9 goals. Of all players to score more than 5 times in Ligue 1 no one has scored more often (every 96.8 minutes), while of the same group of players only two have a better conversion rate (25.7%). With an impressive first touch and ability to use his body to hold off opponents in and around the box, in addition to his obvious prowess in front of goal, Batshuayi’s stay in Marseille could yet be a brief one.
Eslewhere in Ligue 1 there have been two more youngsters to really come to the fore since the turn of the year, with Monaco teenager Anthony Martial and Bordeaux’s Diego Rolan netting 8 times in 2015 alone. The former, like Batshuayi, has had to make do with a place on the bench for much of the campaign but is now getting regular action from the start as Leonardo Jardim’s side have moved up to third.
Martial has 9 league goals to his name in total, with 7 of those – along with 3 assists – coming in just 14 starts in a centre forward position in Ligue 1. In said appearances his WhoScored.com rating is up at an impressive 7.34 and his efforts have already warranted statistical strengths when it comes to finishing, dribbling and key passes.
A compatriot of former Liverpool favourite Luis Suarez, Diego Rolan is one of a number of exciting young prospects to continue to emerge from Uruguay. Only recently turning 22, the Bordeaux forward has 13 league goals to his name in what has been a breakthrough season for the South American. He too has an excellent conversion rate (19.7%) and is deemed very strong at finishing according to WhoScored.com in turn.
Moving away from Ligue 1 and into the Bundesliga, Frankfurt’s Haris Seferovic has had a decent first season in Germany since a move from Real Sociedad, forging a successful strike partnership with the league’s top scorer Alexander Meier. The Switzerland international only has 9 goals to his name in comparison to the veteran’s 19 but with 5 assists the 23-year old is happy to do the much of the running to get the best out of his teammate.
Seferovic will often pull into wide positions and is capable of beating an opponent, with 1.3 dribbles per game, and laying on chances for teammates, with 1.1 key passes on average. His finishing can be a little suspect at times but hard graft goes a long way and he is still very young. He may not be the goal-getter Liverpool crave but the Swiss is capable of getting goals out of his striking counterparts and would unlikely cost the earth.
Just to throw in somewhat of a wildcard option, there will have been plenty of Premier League interest in Benik Afobe throughout this season. To suggest Liverpool would attempt to swoop for a player the fans would likely label an ‘Arsenal reject’ may seem a stretch but the 22-year old has been in sensational form, both on loan at MK Dons and since a permanent switch to Wolves – who narrowly missed out on a play-off place.
Across 43 appearances in League One and the Championship – of which 31 have been starts – Afobe has 23 goals, as well as 9 strikes in the cup for the Dons. Since moving to Molineux he has also weighed in with 5 assists for a superb WhoScored.com rating of 7.45, and has all the physical attributes needed to compete in the top-flight.
If Liverpool’s capture of Ings is secured it may well prove to be shrewd business. The England youth international netted his 10th league goal at the weekend and has gained invaluable Premier League experience after all. If a move were to fall through, however, alternatives may not necessarily be in short supply as the Reds aim to make up what is now a 51-goal gap from last season next time around.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings. You can follow all the scores, statistics, live player and team ratings with their new free-to-download app