With Daniel Sturridge set to leave Liverpool in the summer, Divock Origi’s future uncertain, Dominic Solanke being sold to Bournemouth and young Rhian Brewster coming back from a difficult injury, Jürgen Klopp is nailed on to look for a new attacker in the summer, presumably a striker. At the moment, Mohamed Salah is being used as a number nine and Roberto Firmino can play there too, but both should be, ideally, on the pitch together, leaving cover for the centre-forward position really thin.
Liverpool’s new striker must understand that he’s not gonna dislodge either of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mané (if he can play on the wing) right away, so he must be cool with sitting on the bench for a while. With that in mind, we will be looking at players who are 23 years-old or less.
Using WhoScored and Understat we managed to filter strikers playing in the top five European Leagues who have similar numbers compared to Mohamed Salah’s* and are 23 or less. The best findings came from the Bundesliga, so we’ll start our scouting adventure in Germany. Granted, Salah is a World Class footballer, much like the rest of our front three, therefore the list is not necessarily big, but there are some interesting names in it – and yes, Timo Werner is one of them.
*We’ve only considered Mo’s numbers playing as a nine.
So, to the list!
We start out with the obvious one…
Timo Werner is the name on Liverpool fans’ lips. The 22 year-old German is the hottest prospect on the Bundesliga right now and, if reports are to be believed, Bayern München and Liverpool are set to battle for Leipzig’s goalscoring machine.
Werner has scored 11 league goals this season, one every 142 minutes, averaging 4.2 shots per90. He’s not necessarily a volume shooter, but compared to Salah’s 2.8 shots per90 and 16 league goals. Even considering Non-penalty goals only, Salah still has 13 league goals with far less attempts. But again, Mo is a world-class player, so we’re not looking for a copycat, but someone similar to him. Werner ticks a lot of boxes, but he must develop a clinical edge if he’s to be that guy.
Moving to outside the box duties, Timo Werner actually attempts more dribbles than Mo, with 3.4 dribbles per90, but he’s far less successful, completing only 35% of his take-ons, against Salah’s 67% success rate. He’s also less involved in the build-up and his final pass is inferior to our Egyptian, with Salah creating 13 big chances to his 3, (more than) doubling his eXpected assists per90, with 0.34 to the German’s 0.16 and actually assisting 7 goals to Timo’s 2.
When it comes to duels, their numbers are fairly equal, with Salah involved in 3.8 duels per90 and a 36% win rate opposed to Werner’s 3.3 duels per90 and 38% win rate.
They’re definitely different players and Timo Werner would mean Liverpool moving to a more out-and-out striker, despite Werner’s ability to play on either wing. But, to be fair, the same can be said about the other names featuring this list.
And speaking of out-and-out strikers…
If Timo Werner is the name on Liverpool fans’ lips, any Bundesliga enthusiast/hipster will tell you that Luka Jovic is the one to be really excited about. Frankfurt seems to have hit the jackpot with the 21-year old Serbian, who’s currently on loan from Benfica but the German side have a really small clause with an option to buy and they already confirmed they’ll be activating it. Whether they would keep him or sell him for profit remains to be seen, but the truth is Frankfurt can’t hold him for much longer.
With 14 league goals to his name this season, one every 87 minutes and not a single penalty to his name, Jovic goes against the wave of new modern-day strikers. He’s a pure nine, a fox in the box, quick, strong, genuinely two-footed and can score every type of goal your head can imagine. This is not to say he can’t hold his own outside the box, but you really want him as close of the opposition goal as possible.
He averages 1.2 key passes per90, like Werner, against Salah’s 1.8, but he edges his Bundesliga counterpart in big chances created, with 5. He’s not a dribbly player, with only 1.4 dribbles attempted per90, but he completes 68% of the ones he actually tries. Jovic averages 4 shots per90, which is slightly lower than Werner’s figure, yet he scores more and more often.
Jovic is involved in 4.1 duels per90 and wins 46% of them, giving him a considerable advantage on both Mo and Werner, both in terms of attempts and success rate.
He would definitely be a change in proposition to what Salah currently offers. However, if rumours are to be believed and we are actually in for Werner, Frankfurt’s number 8 is a very similar player to the German with, arguably, more upside and a far easier target, considering Bayern will go all-out for Leipzig’s superstar. Some might even argue that Salah is a Jovic-esque type of striker more than he is a Werner impersonator.
I know there's more stuff to consider but, based on attacking output, Luka Jovic seems a lot more a Salah-esque type of striker than Timo Werner. pic.twitter.com/Us8rFTxe1G
— brazilian naby keita (@LuizFSantoss) February 8, 2019
But if Werner is taken and Jovic is viewed as too much of a risk, there’s another Bundesliga superstar that could be a perfect fit.
A brazilian player with flair to spare who left his country in the early stages of his career, signed by Hoffenheim and developed into a great striker taking the Bundesliga by storm. Sounds familiar?
That’s because they’ve done it again with…
Roberto Firmino was such a hit at Hoffenheim that once they lost him, there was an immediate operation to try to replace him. It took them a while, but they finally found what they were looking for.
Signed from Sport Recife at the age of 19, Joelinton was immediately sent on loan to Rapid Wien, from Austria, to develop further and once he was back in Germany, he established himself as one of Hoffenheim’s most exciting players.
A 6’1 player with pace, mobility and a lot of physical prowess who can take-on defenders and absolute dominate them is a really appealing prospect, and at 22 he still has a lot of room for improvement. Yet, he’s already really good and more than just a frame. He’s really creative too, creating 8 big chances in the Bundesliga this season already and a 1.7 key-pass per90 rate. He also attempts 3.4 dribbles per90, completing 61% of them.
True, he’s not the goalscorer the other two in this list are and his final third contributions need to improve, but his all-round game is certainly appealing, and if Roberto Firmino, not Mo Salah, is the default #9 used by our scout team, they’ll find no one better than Hoffenheim’s number 34.
But if Bobby is the default #9 for scouting purposes, the Bundesliga striker in our radar should point towards Hoffenheim again, as Joelinton seems like a carbon copy of Firmino – which makes sense, since that's actually why they bought him in the first place pic.twitter.com/Y7bYGOOiiu
— brazilian naby keita (@LuizFSantoss) February 9, 2019
5 goals and 5 assists in his first season in a top 5 european league are nothing to take it for granted, even if it won’t take you off your seat. The similarity of his underlying numbers with Firmino’s past two seasons, however, certainly indicate that he could be a steal if we took a bet on him before he explodes. There’s definitely a player in there.