Liverpool, as manager Jürgen Klopp has said recently, are looking to get deals done for players early on in preparation for next season, and Iñaki Williams has been one player heavily linked with the club. Under a new structure that Klopp had great success with at Borussia Dortmund, alongside Director of Football Michael Zorc, new Reds sporting Director Michael Edwards and other club officials will be working hard to recruit players and sort transfer dealings as soon as possible. This will be done in the hope that the Reds will therefore sign their key targets.
Getting these deals done early will be integral to Klopp’s achievements at Anfield and what he can do in the coming years as Liverpool manager, as he continues to build the team he wants.
Williams is 22 years old and plays for hometown club Athletic Bilbao, where he is under contract until 2021, which includes a £42.6 million release clause. Making his debut in December 2014 after replacing the injured talismanic Athletic Club striker Aritz Aduriz, he has cemented a starting spot after impressing since. He clearly has plenty of promise and has developed well under manager Ernesto Valverde.
The Spanish U21 International’s main strengths include his blistering pace that can cause teams major problems defensively, as well as his versatility. Williams usually plays at right wing in Valverde’s 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formations for the Basque side, but can also play in the other attacking positions. The 22 year old has played at left wing and as a striker for Bilbao at times this season, although he could still improve his game in both of these positions.
This season, he has taken more time to grow throughout the year after a breakout 2015-16 season. So far, the Basque forward has two goals and five assists in the league for the San Mamés club. Additionally, Williams has netted two goals in the Copa Del Rey, as well as scoring his first Europa League goal of the season in last week’s 3-2 win against Cyprian side Apoel Nicosia in the Round of 32.
In recent weeks, Williams has been playing more consistently as a right winger, and has contributed well to the Athletic attack, creating 23 chances in La Liga so far. A lot of these chances have led to goals for the likes of fellow winger Iker Muniain, who has four La Liga goals; along with red hot 36 year old striker Aritz Aduriz, who has just reached the 250 career goals milestone.
Williams has consistently impressed in this attacking group, and continues to provide for the likes of Aduriz. Improving his strength and consistency will be key in him taking the next step.
His role in the Liverpool side
It’s this success that he’s been having, as well as the promise he has shown, that has caught the eye of big name clubs across Europe, including Klopp’s Liverpool. This should be of no surprise, as Iñaki Williams looks to be a good fit for the Reds.
Pace is one of the most important areas for Liverpool to add to. Sadio Mané has hit the ground running at Liverpool this season, with his sheer pace and ability to create width and stretch defences so valuable to the side. Mané’s presence of the field often leads to space being created for technical players such as Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana. As a result, Liverpool are currently tied with Arsenal at top spot for goals scored this season in the Premier League with 54.
An increase in pace through starters and rotation players is integral to the Reds having more success against defensive sides. Williams can provide this. His versatility and ability to play in and learn new attacking roles would also be of great benefit. His work rate and style of play would make him a fantastic option for Klopp, should a deal happen.
Playing in 4-2-3-1 and in particular 4-3-3 formations at Bilbao will also be of great benefit, as he will know the systems well. Whilst Mané has the right wing role nailed down at Liverpool, Williams would most likely be used on the left wing as well as in the other forward positions at times too. This could be of great effect to the team. For example, Liverpool have struggled against solid defensive teams multiple times this season, lacking the speed, creativity and skill to commit defenders and create space in behind. If Klopp could mould Williams into a more regular fit at left wing, this could be instrumental in Reds sides unlocking opposition defences. The Basque forward could line up alongside Firmino and Mané, whilst players like Coutinho could drop slightly deeper into a role in which some fans would like to see him play.
Having creative midfielders playing on the half turn and playing it into the quick forward options could be what gives the team that extra x-factor and ability to break teams down. Meanwhile, against the top sides, having Williams as an option to be used in the 4-3-3 may only add to what has been a lethal system at times. The Anfield side have a great record this season against the top six, and bringing in exciting young forwards like Williams would increase the attacking options in Klopp’s arsenal further.
Although there are still questions to be asked about exactly how Williams would be used should a deal like this happen, it is clear what sort of qualities he would bring to the side. In addition, being only 22 means that there’s plenty of upside. Under Klopp’s guidance, Williams could make a significant contribution early on in the team, just as Mané has in his first season on Merseyside. Some recent reports have stated that Williams has been flattered by Liverpool’s supposed interest, but it will be a big test for the club officials to strike a deal at a good price.
The Last Word
It’s clear what Jürgen Klopp’s philosophy is, and the sort of team he’s building at Anfield. It’s fair to say that Williams would likely be a great addition to the squad, with the potential to develop further at the club under Klopp’s guidance. He could play a very influential role further down the line on Merseyside. Although links to Williams have not yet been confirmed, there’s plenty of pertinence to the rumours. He is potentially a good signing that Liverpool will look to wrap up quickly, as other European giants of club football also cast their eye over the young forward.