Liverpool are closing in on the capture of Spanish forward Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo, and unlike the Kolo Toure signing, this feels much more like a Brendan Rodgers move in the ilk of the Philippe Coutinho signing. For Celta Vigo Aspas played near enough as a striker which is represented in his goals tallies over the last few years. He scored 12 in La Liga this year, which was proceeded by a 23 goal season in the Segunda Division, which fired Celta to promotion.
Now, before you worry that his signing will forbear Luis Suarez’s departure, it is important that Liverpool fans shouldn’t expect to see him playing as a striker in England. At 5ft 9in he is far too small to play as the lone striker in Rodger’s 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 system in the Premier League. Quite apart from the presence of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in situ, his talents wouldn’t be maximised as a striker. Instead, he should form part of a very fluid attacking four with the aforementioned strikers and Philippe Coutinho. Presumably this would be with Sturridge up front most of the time with almost total roaming license for the other three.
Aspas’ main strengths are his pace, movement, finishing and inventiveness. This is not dissimilar to Suarez or Coutinho. In their base formation, he may well find himself starting in one of the wider positions to allow Suarez or even more likely, Coutinho, to operate in the ‘number 10’ position behind the central striker. This would even work if they do sell Suarez, as Rodgers will no doubt have his eye on a replacement. Either way, it will give Liverpool a buzzing, moving trio behind Sturridge, who will be able to hang around the box and on the last shoulder of the defenders looking for through balls.
Last season, Liverpool’s attack really surged in to life with the January arrival of Coutinho. He immediately got on to the same wavelength as Suarez and at times they looked to be forging a potentially devastating partnership. The problem for Liverpool, and why they suffered several 0-0s, is that this only gave them a central threat unless one of them wondered out wide. Stewart Downing has lost what little pace he had, Suso and Raheem Sterling are very raw and Jordan Henderson is best used in a three-man midfield. It meant that they always had a weakness in one of the attacking spots, and if teams focused their defensive structures towards stopping Suarez, Liverpool suffered. Aspas will give teams something else to think about because he will be a flurry of movement at pace, the two things defenders hate most in an opponent.
The other extra dimension is his finishing ability. Too often the goalscoring burden fell on Suarez last season. Sturridge is a frustrating finisher, equally capable of scoring with all three shots on goal or missing with ten. Coutinho looks capable of reaching double figures if played centrally and now they can add the goals of Aspas. Between them, all of the various options Rodgers used on the right of the attacking trident last year couldn’t muster up double figures, barely even five. Now, they are adding a forward who scored 12 goals in the more tactical La Liga in a team in which he was pretty much the sole attacking threat. At Liverpool, he will initially be seen as the fourth threat; the unknown. This could allow him more space and freedom as the defensive attention is elsewhere.
Aspas should bring goals, intelligence, movement and pace to the Liverpool attack and looks an ideal accomplice to Coutinho, Suarez and Sturridge. He has more than a little Juan Mata to his game, so if he settles in perhaps instead of having the ‘Three Amigos’ at Chelsea, we could be talking about a new ‘Fab Four’ on Merseyside.