A Closer Look At Liverpool Target Yevhen Konoplyanka

Don’t you just love a bidding war just before deadline day? Well, it seems we have one as both Liverpool and Tottenham are fighting hard over Ukraine winger Yevhen Konoplyanka. But who is he? And who will he suit best?

England fans may claim they have never heard of him, but they would be wrong. Very wrong indeed. In Autumn 2012 at Wembley stadium he cut inside from the left and curled a majestic shot beyond Joe Hart from 30 yards. He terrorised England that day, and is hoping to do the same in the Premier League.

After missing out on Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah to Chelsea, Liverpool were the first to enter the race for the 24-year-old but now Spurs have joined the race and may be confident having beaten the Reds to the signings of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey in recent times. Both clubs are apparently willing to pay in the region of £16 million and, going by the evidence at Wembley,  that seems justified.

Konoplyanka currently plays under former Spurs boss Juande Ramos at Dnipro, but with that regime stagnating there is a feeling that it is time for Konoplyanka to be released into Europe’s elite. It is clear he has now outgrown Ukraine football after admirably staying for so long. With two good feet he would be comfortable playing in any attacking role, but a position on the left wing would suit him best. He has an urge to cut in onto his right foot, much like Eden Hazard or Nani, but he is also comfortable running to the by-line and crossing.

All the signs are pointing to him joining Liverpool and that is surely where he would suit best. There is less competition for places in the attacking third and the Merseysiders are odds on favourites to regain Champions League football.  There is also the opportunity to link up Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, arguably the best strike partnership in England.

However, Brendan Rogers has built his side around his two forwards and that has left little space for a winger with defensive deficiencies. Konoplyanka would prefer a 4-2-3-1 formation and play on the left of the attacking three but that may mean Sturridge is left out of the team or Suarez is dropped back into a number ten position. That could harm the successful partnership they have built. Unlike Raheem Sterling, Konoplyanka would be unsuitable to play the role of wing-back with three defenders. A variation of 4-4-2, which Liverpool have used occasionally, could be the answer allowing Konoplyanka to play on the left but this would mean a straight fight between him and Philippe Coutinho. Whichever way Rogers chooses to work it, it would give him depth to his attacking third that Liverpool have lacked for a few seasons.

Competition is not something Tim Sherwood has to worry about at Spurs. He has an abundance of attacking talent available to him even if Lewis Holtby does depart. A 4-4-2 formation is proving to be successful for Sherwood and that is largely down to the emergence of Christin Eriksson on the left wing, Konoplyanka’s position. Two powerful midfielders mean there won’t be a space for a number ten, while Aaron Lennon has made the right wing his for the last six years. Spurs have the likes of Sigurdsson, Chadli and Lamela all waiting in the wings so a move to North London would be risky for Ukraine’s brightest talent.

Between the two, a move to the North West makes far more sense for Konoplyanka even if it does give Brendan Rogers selection headaches. They are headaches you want to have. Despite this, logic has a knack of disappearing as the deadline gets closer so his future could go either way. Regardless of where he ends up, the Premier League looks set to gain another fine talent.

Charlie Bennett