Liverpool have seen themselves linked with a host of strikers for the upcoming January transfer window following the injury to starting centre-forward Daniel Sturridge. While team-mate Luis Suarez continues to prove more than adept at carrying the goalscoring burden for now, the Reds will not want to see their chances of finishing in the Premier League’s top four scuppered because of a lack of forward options if the chance to sign one in January comes up.
To that end, CSKA Moscow’s Seydou Doumbia is a recognised goalscorer who would no doubt be of interest to plenty of teams. But is he the right fit for Liverpool? And should Liverpool target him?
With nine goals in 11 Russian Premier League outings this season, he’s certainly prolific. Doumbia has missed several games through injury, with CSKA struggling in his absence in September—they went five league games without a goal. All of Doumbia’s strikes have come from central penalty box locations—the first indicator of the type of forward he is.
Doumbia averages just over two shots per game, registering 24 so far this season. Of those, an impressive 62% have been on target, with his nine goals equalling a 38% conversion rate. Both of those statistics compare favourably against Liverpool’s current strike duo, with Suarez maintaing a 27% conversion rate and Sturridge on 22%.
However, any real comparisons with the Reds’ front duo end there.
While both Suarez and Sturridge tend to be heavily involved in Liverpool’s build up play, allowing their movement to take them wide, deep or off the line of the defence, Doumbia is very much an on-the-shoulder striker. He will look to utilise his great pace to get in behind defenders, break between unwary centre- and full-backs, and attempt to plunder his chances from inside the penalty area whenever possible.
The lack of all-round approach that Doumbia offers is displayed in looking further at his statistics for the current season: he has created seven chances so far, which lags behind Sturridge (11) and pales into insignificance to Suarez (24). The Liverpool duo also record a better pass rate than the CSKA front man, who, furthermore, rarely gets involved with build-up play to the tune of making between 10 and 20 passes during most matches. His highest number of passes, in fact, is 20 in one game.
Sturridge, as the closest thing Liverpool have to a No. 9, makes around 20-30 passes most game, while Suarez often surpasses the 30 mark.
Utilising Doumbia would be a complete break from the established role of a forward in Liverpool’s current set-up, essentially removing one player from the element of breaking down an opponent and merely looking for him to put the finishing touches to moves.
He also offers very little from a defensive viewpoint.
While that’s fine for teams who look for the strikers to lead the attack or be an outlet on the counter while the rest of the team gets into position in deeper areas, Liverpool aim—more often than not—to work a little harder and press a little higher up the pitch. Sturridge works hard enough most matches, while Suarez is often the tempo-setter for the club with regards to his off-the-ball work. He has made 18 tackles this season, Sturridge five, and Doumbia just three.
Doumbia has also not won a single aerial duel this season, from 11 attempts. Neither Suarez nor Sturridge are keen battlers or target men, but both make their presence felt and can put it about aerially when needed.
Seydou Doumbia has predatory instincts, knows where the goal is and has pace to burn. In the right set-up, he’s an attractive option to be the main man in attack. He’s certainly got qualities which could shine in the Premier League.
But a true poacher who offers little more to a team simply isn’t right for Liverpool at this stage. There’s nothing wrong with having a different option in the squad, but looking to one who is almost limited to just one role in the team isn’t going to benefit the club, and in the longer run, won’t benefit Doumbia either. He’d end up before long operating as an impact sub to grab a goal in 10 or 15 minutes—and that’s not where the club should be looking to spend their money this winter.