William Carvalho: Would Sporting Lisbon midfielder be a good signing for Liverpool?

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Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder William Carvalho has been linked with a move to Liverpool this week, Jack Lusby explores why.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 10, 2014: Sporting Clube de Portugal's William Carvalho in action against Chelsea during the final UEFA Champions League Group G match at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool want to sign Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho this summer, reports claim, and the 23-year-old would be a very wise signing by manager Brendan Rodgers.

David Maddock of the Mirror suggests that, along with PSV Eindhoven forward Memphis Depay, William is also on Rodgers’ radar this summer.

This comes amidst suggestions that the manager is hoping to sign “more established stars better placed to go straight into the first team.”

So would William be a smart addition to the Liverpool midfield this summer?

 

Strengths

William is a stocky, 6’1” Portuguese defensive midfielder who has swiftly developed into a key player for Lisbon on a club level, and is becoming a major component within the Portugal national team, too.

Since returning from a successful season-long loan spell with Cercle Brugge in 2012/13, he has made 56 league appearances for Lisbon, with only two of these coming as a substitute.

He generally sits as a lone midfield anchor in a straightforward 4-3-3 formation, and this role suits his strengths.

William is a primarily defensive outlet for Lisbon, shielding his back line, mopping up opposing attacks and passing the ball off quickly to his teammates—he is a typical midfield anchor.

In six Champions League games this season, for example, William averaged 2.2 tackles and 1.8 interceptions per game, serving as a relative strong physical presence.

He has averaged 57.5 passes per European game, with an accuracy of 85.2 percent.

The 23-year-old ranks well among Liverpool’s current regular central midfield charges:

Carvalho vs LFC Midfield

(All statistics averaged per league game via WhoScored, with Carvalho’s output measured via his Champions League appearances for availability’s sake.)

William stands comfortably within this group, and looks capable of slotting into the Liverpool system smoothly.

His physical stature mirrors and aids his dominant ability in midfield, he is able to loom over proceedings with composure and tactical intelligence, allowing him a grasp on the central battles much like Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets.

Liverpool need a player who can take hold on sticky situations, and William can be that man.

 

Weaknesses

At present, William’s main positive attributes lie in his tactical game—reading play and breaking up attacks intelligently—and this is magnified by his lofty physique.

But the 23-year-old can still improve on his physical game, particularly if he is to adapt to a fast-paced style of play under Rodgers in the Premier League.

This mainly lies in his current lack of ability to break from midfield and support attacks once opposition moves have broken down—he’s not yet fully in the Nemanja Matic mould, with the Chelsea man serving as the archetype for a dominant all-round defensive midfielder.

Of course, it could be that Rodgers is looking for a player who solely operates to break up play and shield his back line, and no doubt Liverpool supporters will be pleased to add any protection this summer.

But perhaps the price regularly quoted for William’s services, Liverpool should expect more.

Reports linking the Reds with a move for William last month, suggested that Rodgers will have to vie for his services alongside Manchester United’s Louis van Gaal, and claimed that it would take a fee of up to £35 million to coax the midfielder from Lisbon.

“The Sporting Lisbon midfielder has a £35million get-out clause in his contract, though changes to third party ownership could see his price drop by around £10m.

However, the action between the two Premier League giants could mean his value surpasses the £30m mark.”

If Liverpool do enter another speculative tug-of-war with United, and potentially test their transfer-market credentials even further, it will likely mean forking out a truly significant sum for William.

While the frivolity of last season’s £50 million Southampton raid may suggest otherwise, if Liverpool are to sanction a £30 million midfield signing this summer, Rodgers must be sure he’s absolutely the right man.

So where would he see William slot into his Reds side?

 

Where Would He Fit in at Liverpool?

BALTIMORE, MD - Saturday, July 28, 2012: Liverpool's Lucas Leiva and captain Steven Gerrard before a pre-season friendly match against Tottenham Hotspur at the M&T Bank Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Naturally, with reports suggesting William is being targeted as a replacement for Gerrard, it would be assumed that the Portuguese would step in to fill the departing captain’s role in Rodgers’ squad.

However, with Emre Can and Jordan Henderson looking likely to assume this dynamic, driving-force role in the Liverpool midfield, William’s quality is better used elsewhere.

Instead, it could be wisely suggested that William is being targeted to fill a role in Rodgers’ squad that was previously vacant.

Rodgers desperately needs a consistent, diligent defensive midfielder.

With Lucas’ fitness highly unreliable, and Liverpool’s back line in constant need of protection, William would likely come in and fill that role—anchoring the midfield, and shielding the likes of Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel.

Sure, he has his current deficiencies, but at 23 years old William represents a largely well-rounded defensive midfielder, no doubt indebted to his experience in Europe and at international level as a key player.

Under Rodgers, William could grow to be become a Matic-type defensive midfielder and, if Liverpool do sanction his costly signing, this is what perhaps the manager should expect.

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Should Liverpool target William Carvalho this summer? Let us know in the comments below.

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