Funny how things happen sometimes. One day we're beside ourselves arguing over the attacking fit of fit attackers, and the next we're thrown into a tither over the fitness of a fit attacker who seems a perfect fit for our unfit attack.
Alex Teixeira, the lad. Liverpool, the club. You clicked the link, you glazed over the price, you gasped at the reported injury, and now you're all lathered up and ready to cluck out some overreaching proclamations. Just remember that he may contain the urge to run away, so hold him down with soggy clothes and breezeblocks.
Attacking Mid | Shakhtar Donetsk
DOB: 1/6/90 (26) | Height: 5’8" (1.72 meters)
2015-16: 26 appearances | 26 goals | 5 assists
Strengths: This player is a robust beard and brow gamer who isn't shying away from any mohawk worth its weight in molding clay. It's a good thing, too, because at 5'8", Teixeira is only just barely getting let on to most modern roller coasters.
A right foot and choppy, light little steps are the first things you are bound to notice about this player. A crisp passer and a deft touch that allows him to receive and turn in possession on the deck. That trait comes in handy when he's trying to stitch together play, something he will do all over the pitch as he moves to link the defense, midfield, and fellow attackers.
He's got the pace for a foot race with a fullback, and the acceleration to beat an opposing defensive midfielder to a loose ball within the muck of play. And he doesn't lose his nerve when the pressure is on, as even the most cursory of glances at his Champions League record will show.
One of the best things about Teixeira's game in terms of how it will translate to England is his broad base. Shoulder width stance whether he's lining up a free kick, stepping through a driven shot, or measuring up a through ball. It allows him to generate the majority of his shot power from his core, taking minimal backlift to strike the ball whether for a pass or a shot.
Obviously, the goals. 26 goals in 26 games, as they say. He's been almost the inverse of Willian, who arrived in the Ukrainian and Russian leagues as a central attacking midfielder before finding his way further and further out wide. Teixeira's diminutive stature and athleticism meant he was used wide at first--both at Vasco and Shaktar--before Lucescu worked his magic (and Mkhitaryan moved to Klopp's Dortmund) and brought the lad more central and closer to goal.
He's not a striker, so we can put that one to bed right now. He's a midfielder with a nose for goal, enough arrogance to operate in tight areas, and--frankly--more talent and effort than defenders consistently put in front of him are willing or able to offer. His success in front of goal has a lot to do with the context of Shaktar's team, and how he has found himself within that on and off the field. If any potential suitor is going to get close to the same return from this player in England, they would be wise to focus as much on the surrounding pieces as on Alex himself.
But the real thing you should know about Alex Teixeira? Loyalty. A born and raised carioca, Teixeira's one and only club in Brazil is Vasco de Gama. When Alex was asked in November of last year what team he would consider playing for if he returned to his home country, the answer was roughly that his father would disown him for playing for Fluminense, and that there is zero chance of him ever playing for Flamengo. Respect.
As a 26 year old just now arriving in the upper echelons of the game, it appears as though the only way Alex will find himself playing on home soil anytime soon is if it's with the Brazilian national team. Whenever they get around to handing the guy a chance, that is.
That right foot is a blessing and a curse. Ball falls to his left foot in a tight space with a defender closing down on him? Teixeira's first instinct is going to be to swivel and contort his hips into some weird, outside of the boot stab at the ball. Ball needs to be taken out of the air in stride? Watch that right peg slide out there for it. Dribbles and turns need to be embarked upon? Right is the way.
Sure, it'll work most of the time--it's that good. But defensively adept teams will sort that out by the second or third time they see the player. That means that by season two in England, Teixeira will have either been forced into more confidence on his left, some sort of creative counter with his right, or he will have been found out.
He's not a ponderous, eloquent passer of the ball. It's not that the range isn't there, per se, it's that he hasn't been drilled in that style of football. Shaktar like to pass the ball into quick hitting one-twos to take advantage of the simple angles while they are available. That will work when a game is open, but well drilled opposition who are ready to sit back and soak up pressure need to be unlocked through patience and guile as much as speed and force. Teixeira is skilled enough to adjust, but this isn't a Juan Riquelme sort of #10. He's not creating looping angles or presenting chances on a platter out of nothing. He's a cog. A ludicrously skilled cog, perfectly suited to the modern game, but a cog nonetheless.
We don't know how this guy is going to react to the tight marking and rugged schedule of a premiership season. Willian took time adapting to it, Coutinho took time adapting to it, it took a lot of juice out of Oscar after that initial glory period--the struggle is real in this switch. Again, the context of how Teixeira is asked to fit into this league, his new city, and his new team, is going to be critical for his success. Anyone telling you any different is selling something.
Plus there's the heigh thing. Because he's not beating Phil Jagielka for headers at the back post any time soon. Oh, and he may have a bum hamstring, too. Sorry.
Summation: This is absolutely a player you pay £30m for when you get the chance. He's ready. Teixeira may improve here or there--he will have to to succeed in England--but he is just about maxed out for the player he is going to be. And so you do it for the knock on effects in the attacking unit. For convincing a guy like Coutinho to stay in Red for as long as possible. For helping to get the best out of Roberto Firmino. For an injection of excitement into what has become a bit of a moribund season. This isn't a signing for three seasons down the line, this would be about now. And even if it's not a one stop shop for everything that ails Jürgen Klopp's Reds, it would be a hell of kick-start for this new era of Liverpool football.
And apropos of nothing in particular? If that Vasco thing rings a bell to any of you out there familiar with a little footballer we like to call Philippe Coutinho, it's no coincidence. The two share the Vasco connection and know each other from youth Brazil squad days. You can't stop the hipster Brazil B crew, you can only hope to contain it.