Daniel Sturridge would perhaps rate as one of the most frustrating players in the Premier League and perhaps in Europe. The people getting frustrated with him have changed but he continues to vex people. During his early Liverpool career, he used to frustrate the opposition defences and for the last two seasons he is frustrating his manager, team mates, and fans. It seems that he cannot seem to find the three Fs – fitness, favour, and form simultaneously. It seems he is always out of one or two of them at any given point in the last two seasons. So, it is natural for the media to speculate on his Liverpool future and a quality replacement, in case he moves on.
Given that Sturridge does not fit Klopp’s style of play or the levels of fitness the German desires, the odds of Sturridge staying beyond this summer are not really good. Sensing this, media outlets have begun speculating who will replace the England striker in Klopp’s squad next season. This week, the most prominent names that have emerged have been that of Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette and his younger team mate Maxwel Cornet. In this piece I take a look at both these forwards, assuming that the rumours are true, and try to understand which forward would be more beneficial for the Reds.
Goal Scoring Stats
The 25-year-old Alexandre Lacazette does not need too much of an introduction. He has been one of the most prolific goal scorers in Europe for this and the last couple of seasons, scoring 27 and 21 Ligue 1 goals in 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively. In the current season, he has already reached 21 goals in the league in 21 matches (1740 minutes), that is one Ligue 1 goal every 83 minutes. In all competitions this season, he is scoring at the rate of one goal every 90 minutes with 26 goals in 30 matches. He primarily plays in the centre forward position for Lyon, the position Sturridge plays in (or wants to play in) for Liverpool.
His team member and compatriot Maxwel Cornet is five years younger, having joined Lyon from FC Metz in January 2015. Between the current and the last season, in 52 Ligue 1 appearances, he has scored 10 goals at one goal every 271 minutes, i.e. one goal every 3 matches. Nowhere near his more illustrious team-mate but not too bad for a 21-year old either. In all competitions this season, he has scored six goals and assisted three in 33 appearances. Assists are important for Cornet as he can play as the forward, as well as on the wings. In fact, he has played more on the left-wing this season than centrally.
On current form obviously Lacazette is a more accomplished striker. However, if we look at his career stats from 5-years back, we see a player similar to today’s Cornet. In 2011-12, Lacazette scored 5 and assisted 4 goals in 29 Ligue 1 appearances, at a rate of one goal scored every 279 minutes. His scoring form in 2012-13 was not as good as he managed only three goals in 31 appearances, albeit he assisted 9 league goals. Coincidentally, back then Lacazette was also primarily deployed on the wings.
In terms of ability to use both the feet, Cornet’s senior goals have seen a more even distribution between both feet and headers, while Lacazette is primarily right footed. We have already noted that Cornet, at least at the current stage in his career, is more likely to assist (in all competitions) fellow goal scorers than Lacazette due to the position he plays in. But, Lacazette has more passes, key passes, and through balls (in Ligue 1) per game to his name, indicating a more involved playing style upfront, compared to Cornet, who has more crosses to his name.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lacazette also has more shots per game (3.2), dribbles (1.9) and gets fouled more often (1.4) per game. On the other hand, Cornet has more turnovers to his name – more offsides (0.3), dispossessions (1.2) and unsuccessful touches (1.8) per game.
But in defensive stats, Cornet leads his illustrious team-mate. He puts in more tackles (1.5) and clearances (0.6) per game, showing either his will to be defensively more involved or his positional requirements of tracking back.
What these stats tell us is that Lacazette is a more complete poacher who gets involved primarily in the attacking half and does so very well. He is a bit single-footed but from that right foot, he is pretty good. If a player is scoring with every third of his shot, he is very good. On the other hand, Cornet can score from both his feet, as well as his head but his involvement in the attacks is not as successful. This in part is overshadowed by the per game numbers provided by WhoScored as Cornet has only completed 7 out of his 21 league appearances from start to finish. But the same characteristic emphasises his defensive involvement, in comparison to his team mate. In fewer minutes, he is able to put in more tackles and clearances than what Lacazette is able to put in entire games.
Liverpool’s Preferences and Feasibility
If Liverpool want to replace Sturridge, it is primarily due to his tendency to miss games due to many injuries and illnesses and secondarily due to the drop in form he has suffered as a result. Another reason is that Sturridge does not track back to get involved defensively as much as Klopp would like. Now let us keep those three things – fitness, form, and tendency to get defensively involved as the criteria to understand which of the two Frenchmen are preferable.
Both of them tick the fitness box fairly comfortably. Cornet is yet to miss a senior team due to lack of fitness and Lacazette has missed only 13 games so far in his career spanning more than 9 seasons. In terms of form, Lacazette is in red-hot goal scoring form right now, but Cornet is on a similar trajectory as Lacazette after a few more seasons. In terms of getting involved defensively, it seems Cornet tends more to do so but that could also be due to him being deployed primarily on the wings.
Then the question arises that what exactly do Liverpool need right now. I feel that this Liverpool team already has the ability to score a bagful of goals as they have adequately shown this season. So a Lacazette can help the team but at the expense of destabilising the top three that Klopp prefers. Lacazette would also command a higher price and perhaps still not address Klopp’s concern about his attackers getting involved in the defence. Moreover, to
On the other hand, Maxwel Cornet is a youngster who could be available for a lower price, especially as the expensive Memphis Depay will be the first choice on the wings for Lyon now and Cornet could find himself to be surplus to his club’s needs. He seems to have the potential to develop into a pretty solid goal scorer, is a pacy winger, albeit one-dimensional and does not have too many known injury problems. He is also accustomed to tracking back and can contribute a handful of goals every season.
It seems that Cornet is perhaps the kind of player Klopp is likely to sign. Indeed, if Liverpool try to buy a French forward this season, it is possible that it could be the younger Frenchman and not his team-mate.