As the summer transfer window begins to loom large, there is one rumour that refuses to die down – that of Mario Gotze joining Liverpool. The Germany international has struggled to hold down a regular starting spot following his controversial switch from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich back in 2013, with injury playing a role in his inability to really make a name for himself at the Allianz Arena.
A summer exit is widely rumoured to be on the cards, despite the best efforts of Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski to convince Gotze that his future lies in Bavaria. The chance to link up with former Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp, though, could be too good to turn down for the 23-year-old attacker. Gotze’s best WhoScored.com rating came in his final season at the Westfalonstadion (7.81) under Klopp’s stewardship, with 10 goals and a further nine assists contributing to his impressive score.
Gotze will be keen to return to his best and while he may wait until Carlo Ancelotti takes charge of Bayern before deciding his future, it seems Klopp knows how to bring out the best in his young compatriot. However, there’s an argument to suggest Klopp would too many slight creators if he does bring Gotze to Anfield. With the Reds boss favouring a system with a lone striker, he needs a creator behind the frontman to pull the strings for his side in the final third.
Given his current form, Philippe Coutinho is perhaps Klopp’s best option to play the number 10 role. The Brazilian’s WhoScored.com rating since Klopp took charge (7.51) is the best of all Liverpool players. After a laborious start to the season, Coutinho is beginning to rediscover his best form. Meanwhile, the Liverpool manager can also call on Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana in the same position. The latter makes up for a lack of conviction with his industriousness in the final third, and his ability to continuously press the opposition has proven to be a boost to Klopp.
Firmino, meanwhile, will likely be guaranteed a starting spot when fit, with the former Hoffenheim ace a more direct equivalent to Gotze. There have even been suggestions that the young Bayern man could play as a false 9, but having only started as a striker five times in the last three Bundesliga seasons – albeit to a high standard, gaining a WhoScored.com rating of 8.29 – it’s unlikely Klopp will deploy Gotze in such a position, injury permitting.
With Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Firmino widely considered Klopp’s favoured striking options, it’s most likely that Gotze would be brought in as a playmaker behind the striker, filling a similar role to the one he played at Dortmund under Klopp. It would leave the Liverpool manager with a selection headache, of that there is no doubt. Klopp would have three varying creative outlets in his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation that, while offering differing threats, perhaps lack the necessary defensive discipline.
Yet, what Gotze perhaps lacks in pace he makes up for with his speed of thought. In his best-rated campaign for Dortmund, Gotze made 2.3 key passes and three successful dribbles per game, with the latter particularly telling in that his impressive close control helped him retain possession, despite pressure from the defence. Importantly still, with Klopp’s high pressing approach, this benefitted Gotze, who was presented with ample space to create for teammates or go for goal himself.
As such, Dortmund – and Gotze – were able to forge goalscoring opportunities by the bucketload as they blew opponents away, Bayern Munich aside. However, in that season he was boosted with the help of a toiling winger on either flank, be it Jakub Blaszczkowski or Kevin Großkreutz, to ensure Klopp’s side were not unbalanced in the attacking third. While it would be tempting to field Firmino, Coutinho and Gotze in the same attacking three behind the striker, it may prove naïve to compromise Liverpool’s defensive solidity by starting that trio.
With Sturridge’s return to fitness and Origi’s recent good form, Klopp is unlikely to drop a natural striker any time soon, unless forced by injury, in which case Firmino could start up front. With one of Lallana or James Milner expected to provide the industry to help maintain balance in midfield, the signing of Gotze would effectively mean three players are battling for two starting spots when all are available. That isn’t to say Liverpool should opt against signing Gotze as a result – with some teams playing upwards of 60 games a season, they need options in all areas of the pitch.
Gotze would be made to work for a regular starting spot but given his ability to turn a game in his side’s favour, familiarity with Klopp and the style of play his compatriot implements, Liverpool look unlikely to pass up the opportunity to sign the Germany international, despite the Reds’ abundance of creative personnel.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find live in-game data as well as player and team ratings. You can follow all the scores, statistics, live player