Liverpool not as healthy at left-back as you might think - it's time to step up Rayan Ait-Nouri interest

On the surface, a move for a left-back this summer shouldn’t be high on Richard Hughes’ to-do list. Andrew Robertson, Kostas Tsimikas and Joe Gomez give new Liverpool manager Arne Slot a number of options in that role. 

The closer you look though, the more apparent it becomes that the Reds might have to reinforce that particular area of the team. 

Robertson missed 26 games last season due to injuries and there’s a chance that the minutes he’s racked up for Liverpool since moving to Anfield in 2017 are finally catching up to him. He was a firm favourite under former boss Jurgen Klopp and the 30-year-old was put to work. 

Prior to last season, the No26 had appeared in 15,000 Premier League minutes over the past five campaigns at an average of 3,000 per season. That is 33 90-minute matches per season without factoring in European and cup appearances. There’s a lot of mileage in those legs.  

It was only a matter of time before we started to see the wear and tear of these exploits. It has happened with quite a number of players from Klopp’s all-conquering team. If injuries haven’t caught them out, their form has abruptly fallen off a cliff. 

Just look at Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson and even Fabinho. There are consequences to playing that much football at such an intensity for a prolonged period of time. 

Good time for Robbo successor

It might be a little premature to place Robertson in that category, especially when a large chunk of those missed games were tied to the shoulder injury. But he has picked up the odd muscle niggle here and there over the past two years which could well be a precursor for things to come. With his current deal up in two years, now might be a good opportunity to look to bring in a successor. 

Tsimikas isn’t going to be the player to replace the Scotland captain. He was signed to ease the burden on Robertson but his injury issues have largely meant he’s struggled to get the minutes he probably thought he’d be getting. 

Andy Robertson - the Liverpool player was injured playing for Scotland

Scotland v Northern Ireland International Friendly, Länderspiel, Nationalmannschaft Andrew Robertson of Scotland is forced off early during the International Friendly match at Hampden Park, Glasgow Copyright: xJamiexJohnstonx FIL-19888-0076

The 28-year-old missed 23 games in 2020/21 and 11 games last season. He signed a new deal in 2023 which ties him to the club until 2027, but that felt like a play to protect his value more than anything else. He’s likely going to want first-team football and Liverpool simply cannot offer that, so perhaps he’s on the move during this off-season

Left-back cover needed

David Lynch, speaking to Anfield Index recently, confirmed as much when he said that the Greece international was “a bit of a candidate for moving on this summer.”

Gomez did well at left-back last season but if reports are accurate and the Reds aren’t looking to bring in a centre-back, the England international is going to be counted as part of the centre-back pool. He has to be. Heading into the season with just Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate and Jarell Quansah is too big of a risk. 

Numbers wise, Liverpool might look ok at left-back, but when properly analysing the situation, the Reds aren’t anywhere near as healthy as you might think in that role. 

And this is why the links to Rayan Ait-Nouri make a lot of sense

Ait-Nouri wants Liverpool

The Wolves full-back reportedly favours a switch to Anfield despite interest from a host of other clubs. 

The 23-year-old, believed to be valued at £40 million, has two years left on his deal with Wolves. However, the club do have the option to extend by a further 12 months and they’re likely going to want to take up that option. 

He’s fairly young but experienced in the English top flight, combine that with the contract situation and it is safe to assume Wolves will believe they can get big money for their full-back. 

The French-born Algeria international has spent four years in the Premier League having arrived from Angers as a Football Manager wonderkid. Ait-Nouri has developed and playing for a team like Wolves has helped the defensive side of his game. He can dig in when required but, hopefully in a Slot system, he will be able to show off what he’s capable of in the final third. 

However, having someone who can do, and has done, the dirty work defensively makes life easier. 

Ait-Nouri ticks a lot of boxes

It means the Reds don’t have to worry about that side of the game whereas if they’re signing a player who excels offensively and has been playing for a dominant side, the chances are they need to work on their out-of-possession stuff. 

In possession, Ait-Nouri already ticks a few boxes. He’s used to seeing a decent amount of the ball, averaging near 50 passes per 90. So, again, it isn’t as though you’re asking a full-back who is averaging 20 passes per 90 to scale to the 60 Robertson was averaging. If you scale that much, you can encounter issues.  

Ait-Nouri is an adept ball-carrier and he progresses play well. He’s comfortable under pressure and he retains possession well. The 5ft11 full-back is very composed which makes him a good fit in the modern game when he’s having to come up against a high press. 

He’s also decent on his weaker side too, which opens up angles and possibilities. He could easily play as an inverted full-back, though I think that wastes his talents on the overlap. 

He’s had a few groin issues over the years that need to be taken into account but he’s not missed large periods, so they’re never serious. 

The 23-year-old is a Gestifute client. Liverpool are on good terms with this agency and have worked with them previously. It should make a deal fairly straightforward if the interest is real.  However, if it isn’t going to be Ait-Nouri, a left-back is needed this summer.

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