With only days left in the transfer window, a flurry of transfer activity on Monday saw Liverpool tie up a deal to sign Naby Keïta—effective next summer—renew their efforts towards Virgil van Dijk, reiterate their stance on Philippe Coutinho, and make a strong push for Monaco’s Thomas Lemar. As the news starts to move quickly in the last few days of the window, we look at what the Frenchman would offer Jürgen Klopp’s Reds.
DOB: 12/11/95 (21) | Height: 5’7” (1.70 meters)
2016-17 Season: 34 appearances | 9 goals, 10 assists
Strengths: Firstest of first things, we need to talk about Lemar’s left foot. It is an absolute treasure. Typically electing to bend the ball where he wants it to go with a combination of swerve and accuracy that makes goalkeepers and defenders’ jobs terribly complicated, Lemar is also capable of unleashing linear thumpers from range or slipping cheeky no-look passes with the outside of his boot through the backline. He was the premier corner taker in Ligue 1 last year, and there is arguably no player in Europe who produced more accurate corners—and subsequent finishes—than the 21-year old.
Nominally a left winger in a 4-2-2-2 last season, Lemar spent the majority of his time at Monaco drifting centrally—allowing the overlapping Benjamin Mendy to provide most of the width—picking up the ball and either running at defenders or looking for an early pass. He has also spent time as a central attacking midfielder, particularly when he played for Caen. On the occasions last season when he did take on a truly wide role, though, his ability to get around his man and swing in an accurate crosses was superb, helping him to finish last season with six assists from wide deliveries.
Lemar is also excellent in transition, and while not the kind of electric speed merchant Liverpool possess in Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, his quickness combined with an understated yet highly effective dribbling style that leans heavily on shoulder drops, body feints, and directional changes makes him an absolute terror in open space.
When moving with the ball, Lemar’s close control allows him to keep his head up, constantly searching for the right option, and more often than not finding it. His vision, timing, and understanding of rhythm are all outstanding, both on and off the ball, and he does well to locate dangerous spaces in the area in which to arrive and finish off attacks.
The Guadeloupe-born attacker also accrued a reputation as a big-game player in the Champions League last year, scoring the winner twice against Tottenham in the group stage and assisting a total of five goals over four matches against Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund in the knockout rounds. In other words, the man’s talent translated to the CL.
In short, Thomas Lemar is a formidable attacking talent, offering particularly salient threats in the transitional phase of attack and from set pieces, the former jiving perfectly with Jürgen Klopp’s style of play, while the latter would add a whole new dimension to Liverpool’s offense.
Weaknesses: Lemar is not a particularly big man. Standing 5’7” and with a slight frame, there is a certain chance he will find the rough and tumble of the Premier League a less forgiving environment than the defense-is-optional milieu of Ligue 1. He is elusive enough that he avoids most challenges, and so picks up surprisingly few free kicks, but the cynical, underhand tactics and intentional fouling many PL sides dabble in could require a period of adaptation at the very least.
Like many lefties, Lemar relies almost exclusively on his stronger foot to do all the work, which will occasionally force him to attempt something impossible with his favoured leg rather than something mundane with his right. As mentioned, though, that left-foot is exquisite. But it would still serve Lemar well to let his opposite leg get some reps on the training pitch.
Some will quibble that the French international has yet to impress at the very top level, but his performances in the Champions League, contributing significantly to Monaco’s run to the semi-final, should put paid to that idea.
Summation: Thomas Lemar is an exceptionally talented player, and a player to get excited about, one who would not look out of place in any of Europe’s top sides. If Liverpool indeed snap him up, it should be considered an impressive piece of business by the club. He fits the profile of a player who suits the team’s style of play perfectly while also offering something that the side sorely lacks—namely a set piece specialist—and who still has plenty of room to grow.
The player’s talents and price tag means he would expect to play significant minutes right away, and his versatility—this author would not be surprised to see him utilised on both wings, behind the striker, and maybe even in a central role depending on the opposition and the composition in midfield—combined with this season’s expansive fixture list, should ensure that he does. On top of it all, in the event of a Coutinho sale—either this summer or next—the Reds would already have acquired a natural heir.