Liverpool continue to be linked to players, because it is January, and this is what happens during the month of January. Over the last couple of days, multiple media outlets have picked up a link to Spain u-21 international, Iñaki Williams. Long legs, light steps, and not afraid to slap a mohawk on that five-head, the athletic fledgling currently plays for Athletic Bilbao.
Having found himself in a rich vein of goalscoring form this season--the 21 year old Williams is putting in 1.4 goals per 90 across all competitions this year-the player has progressed a bit from the positionally amourphous athlete that piqued the interest of La Liga watchers a couple seasons ago. The first few times we saw the lad play, Bilbao were deploying him as a bit of a hybrid wide man that was basically charged with the entire right flank. His pace would more than keep opposing fullbacks and wide forwards pulled out wide, making him a very useful tactical foil for keeping the opposing defensive line stretched out, creating spaces in more central areas.
That speedy versatility continues to be useful to player and club, as Bilbao have doubled down on his development by using the lad in central forward positions over the last calendar year. The stats will show that it has worked a treat. The lad's light feet mean that all he needs is a well placed through ball to put him through. His off the shoulder technique and timing is very raw, but like a young Theo Walcott, it doesn't even have to be that refined thanks to that springy first step of his.
Now the reality check: the finishing is about as bad as it is good, and pass or shot, it's all coming off that right foot. His passing, touch, and decision making all need plenty of work, and at 21 it's not like he's going to suddenly develop Isco-levels of familiarity with the ball. He is also some ways off of being able to establish the forward line in a single striker system.
He is the sort of raw prospect that is exploiting a decisive physical advantage, while the rest of his game catches up. These sorts of players tend to benefit greatly from the smart management and skillful teammates that pack La Liga sides. If you can manage to hide his weaknesses, while fully buttressing his strengths, you have yourself a real game changing dynamic at your disposal. And that has been exactly the case at Bilbao.
The price being quoted is around £15m, and while it is a robust fee for the player he currently is, if Williams can continue to consolidate his ball skills, he could really be a useful player in the quick hitting, open spaces of England. In particular in a system that asks him to use his energy, and play a pressurized, opportunistic counter attacking style like Jürgen Klopp is in the midst of developing at Liverpool. The lad doesn't need to develop into Cesc Fabregas in terms of ball skill, but he does need to make sure this finishing streak of his becomes a reliable component of his game, week in/week out.
Will it come off? Who knows. Undeniably sweet name, though.