2WT9ACJ Wolverhampton, UK. 16th Mar, 2024. Wolverhampton, England, March 16th 2024: Rayan Ait-Nouri (3 Wolves) scores the equaliser during the FA Cup football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Coventry City at Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton, England (Natalie Mincher/SPP) Credit: SPP Sport Press Photo. /Alamy Live News

Why Rayan Ait-Nouri would be an ideal left-back signing for Liverpool

Wolves‘ Rayan Ait-Nouri has been linked to Liverpool this summer, an exciting young left-back option who the club ought to seriously consider in the transfer market.

The Reds have been claimed to be in “pole position” to sign the 23-year-old, with noise over an exit from Wolves growing louder in his home country, Algeria.

Liverpool journalist David Lynch recently explained his belief that there is “definitely legs in this one,” and it got us thinking about the possibilities.

The club would likely need to sell before they made a move to bring in a left-back, with Kostas Tsimikas‘ future already in doubt. Regardless, Ait-Nouri is a talent Liverpool should be seriously considering.


Versatile and coachable

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 4, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) and Wolverhampton Wanderers' Rayan Aït-Nouri during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

At 23, Ait-Nouri has over 140 senior club appearances – in addition to four caps for Algeria – and has the versatility to play in a number of positions, which Wolves boss Gary O’Neil has tapped into.

Whether it be as an orthodox left-back, a left midfielder or a left wing-back, Ait-Nouri is comfortable in mixing it up – even in the same match.

It has shown off his discipline, game intelligence and diligence, traits which have not always been present in his game.

“He has an incredible talent and ability, and the biggest improvement can be made with him just by coaching and him understanding his roles and responsibilities better for each game,” O’Neil said last season.

“We’re trying to improve him positionally and with his decision-making, but we have someone who has that much scope for improvement.”

O’Neil oversaw Ait-Nouri’s shift at Wolves from a player on the cusp of an exit to a key component and consistent member of the XI, and notably, he coined him “coachable.”


Ready to take the game on

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Tuesday, January 17, 2023: Wolverhampton Wanderers' Rayan Aït-Nouri during the FA Cup 3rd Round Replay match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The 2023/24 campaign was a significant one in Ait-Nouri’s development, with 29 Premier League starts, and the first thing that catches your eye when watching him is his desire to run at the opposition.

Liverpool’s full-backs under Jurgen Klopp were the creative hubs of the team, as for Slot, he has been known to use them in a midfield role to offer more options in the build-up.

This is perhaps where Andy Robertson and Ait-Nouri differ, with the Wolves man rated highly for successful take-ons – as per FBref, he’s ranked in the 98th percentile compared to others in the same position.

The Algeria international is comfortable on the ball, 86th percentile for pass completion, so he’s adept at moving it on in the right moments. But he’s got grit to him too, as he is in the 87th percentile for tackles.

He has the ability to transition effectively from defence to midfield, and back again, something Robertson has not always had, and we have seen Liverpool pay for it on occasion.

It is these traits that allow Ait-Nouri, a player Liverpool scouted before his move to Wolves, to escape pressure and create openings in the final third, and his pace does not hurt either!

If we are looking for an area to improve, it would be making the most of his big chances in front of goal as he missed five for Wolves in the league last season.

If you’re wondering what his output is, he has scored seven goals and supplied eight assists in his Wolves career to date, which has spanned 116 games.


A different profile

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 18, 2024: Liverpool's Andy Robertson during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It goes without saying that he is younger than the Scotland captain (30), but if the Reds signed Ait-Nouri this summer he would be the same age as Robertson when he arrived at Anfield in 2017 (23).

While they share similar attacking mindsets, they have different characteristics that could aid Arne Slot.

Robertson is an elite crosser of the ball, while Ait-Nouri prefers to get closer to the opposition box and cut the ball back, and there’s still vast room for improvement and for Slot to mould the Algerian to his liking.

That does raise one of the downsides, though, which is that he would be involved in the Africa Cup of Nations, which is not quite a selling point due to the timing of the tournaments.

With versatility, experience, youth and both offensive and defensive qualities to play with, Ait-Nouri appears an ideal candidate to inject fresh blood into the left-back position.

Reports suggest Liverpool would need to part with between £35 million and £40 million to land him, at the very least, but you sense that would be a fee reflective of the talent they would be acquiring.