The Liverpool part of social media was abuzz on the Monday evening following on from the League Cup defeat. Many of the journalists that are considered to be reliable when it comes to Liverpool news were all reporting transfer links that you’d usually find on a Liverpool fans’ FIFA career save.
If you’re a cynic, which many Liverpool fans are, you may believe the club are desperate for some positive PR and being linked with the likes of ter Stegen and Mario Gotze one night after a final defeat will give you that feel good vibe.
Amongst the many names linked with Liverpool was one that’s been linked with the Reds since January. Empoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski. The Polish International is currently on loan at Empoli from Udinese and many in the media seemed to believe he’d end up at Watford if he were to move to the Premier League, what with the clubs having the same owners. Despite this reports suggest Liverpool are favourites to land him, and even tried to push through the deal in January.
The 5″8 midfielder has had a breakout 2015/16 with Empoli in what’s his second season on loan there. His first season at the club saw him make 28 appearances in total but his total minutes played was 1033 minutes, which equates to just over eleven 90 minute matches. This season is completely different though with the versatile midfielder already featuring in 2170 minutes this season, over 24 full games. It’s this season that’s allowed him to really showcase his talents, and he has an abundance of them.
As was mentioned earlier, Piotr is versatile. He’s currently being deployed on the right hand side of a diamond but in the past he’s played as part of two man midfield, he’s played as an attacking midfielder and he’s played wide right. Not only is he versatile in terms of his position but he’s versatile when it comes to style. He has the ability to play as a box-to-box midfielder, he could comfortably play as the creator in midfield and he also has some traits that lead many to believe he could be a goalscoring midfielder.
I spoke to Blair Newman (@TheBlairNewman), a writer for Squawka, Football Italia and FourFourTwo and many more sites, to find out his thoughts on the young midfielder.
“High energy, intelligent, likes to drive forward. Currently plays on the right of a diamond in a sort of box to box role with (Leandro) Paredes the acting as the deep playmaker for Empoli. He’s not just a Duracell bunny with no end product, he’s pretty creative, loves to dribble and a good passer of the ball with great vision. Think of James Milner work rate wise but with technical ability. That’s what Piotr would offer.”
This video, by Rayted Are who has more videos of players linked to Liverpool on his Youtube account, highlights one of Piotr’s strengths. You’ll notice whenever he picks the ball up he’s always looking to go forward. He carries the game to the opposition and looks to make something happen. He may get caught trying to dribble away from players at times but it’s encouraging to see a midfielder be so positive when in possession.
His stats for this season seem to back up what Blair said. So far this season he’s scored 3 goals and he’s got 4 assists to his name. He creates 1.6 chances per 90 to go alongside the 1.6 key passes and 2.6 completed dribbles. He averages 45 passes per 90 and has a good pass percentage rate of 82.4%, compared to Jordan Henderson 77%, and Lucas Leiva 82%. When looking at the defensive side of his game he puts in 2.1 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per 90. Zielinski has only picked up one yellow card in his last 10 appearances.
Another thing worth noting is the fact he often plays 90 minutes, he’s not the type to tire. The Italian league is much slower than in England but Piotr seems to have the stamina to manage.
The elephant in the room is obviously his height. He currently wins fewer than one header per 90. He’s not going to be winning many headers in the centre of midfield but the rest of the midfielders in the Liverpool squad are all over 6ft so there should be enough cover in that sense.
Another area of his game that needs improving is his finishing. He’s scored three this season, and he’s brave enough to take shots on, but for the positions he finds himself in at times he should have many more goals to his name this season already.
How he’d feature for Liverpool?
This may seem like bizarre comparison but think Santi Cazorla in a midfield three for Arsenal. He’ll carry the game to the opposition with his dribbling, he’s able to create from deep and he’s a goalscoring threat. Nobody is certain how Reds manager Jurgen Klopp will line up next season but adding Zielinski to the squad would be wise business.