Christopher Nkunku made headlines on Wednesday evening and Liverpool should pay attention. The Frenchman could be exactly what they’re after.
Liverpool have a problem coming up – replacing Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian turns 30 next month and, unfortunately, can’t go on forever.
But the Reds’ side is pretty reliant on Firmino. He is a rare False 9 these days, capable of moving defences about, operating as a playmaker, and pressing like mad.
Liverpool need a player like that. His movement creates space for wingers to score from, that playmaking means the team doesn’t need a no.10, and his pressing is almost required for Jurgen Klopp’s style of play.
The real problem, then, is that Firmino is pretty unique. He’s really an attacking midfielder converted into a forward and that makes him incredibly difficult to replace. There just aren’t many players around doing the things he does.
But maybe Liverpool can make one.
Christopher Nkunku for Liverpool?
Christopher Nkunku made headlines on Wednesday as he bagged a hat-trick against Manchester City. RB Leipzig did lose the game in the end but the Parisian was excellent.
He proved to be clinical in a big game – a trait he doesn’t show all that often. The ability is clearly there, however.
Is that enough to play a role as a False 9? Firmino isn’t known for regular scoring but Nkunku would need to improve. Fortunately, his other abilities make up for it.
Per Statsbomb data on FBref, Nkunku looks like an ideal Liverpool player. Especially for that False 9/Firmino role.
The site uses data across Europe’s top 5 leagues to compare players of similar positions. It gives you a specific idea of how a player operates.
Nkunku is 95th percentile for expected assists among attacking midfielders and wingers. He’s 97th for actions that create shots and 93rd for receiving forward passes. That’s essentially Firmino’s role when Liverpool have possession.
Receive the ball between the lines and look to play in the goalscorers. Perfect.
So the fact that Nkunku is also 85th percentile for presses per game and 88th for blocks is truly fantastic. He’d fit right in and provide pretty much what Liverpool ask Firmino to do.
Now, this plan certainly relies on Nkunku developing and for Liverpool to re-train him as a False 9. He’s still only 23, though, and we’d back the Reds’ coaching staff to get considerably more out of him.
Answering the difficult Firmino problem is tough but we presume Liverpool will want to try. In Nkunku, they may find their answer.