The Hard Tackle makes a case for Liverpool’s latest target Sasa Kalajdzic, who could potentially solve Jurgen Klopp’s attacking woes next season.
It has been a season to forget for a Liverpool side who are seemingly on the verge of losing their crown as the Premier League champions as Manchester City move one step closer towards their inevitable coronation.
The Reds have endured many difficulties, including a remorseless strait of injuries, throughout the course of the game. However, apart from having players out, it is perhaps fair to argue that some of their star players have failed to live up to the expectations, including Roberto Firmino.
A much-maligned figure in the Premier League due to his lack of productivity, the Brazilian has once again lacked the consistency in front of goal. So, it is perhaps barely a surprise that Liverpool in the market for a new striker in the summer, and if reports from the Transfer Market Web are to be believed, Sasa Kalajdzic has emerged as one of their prime targets.
The Stuttgart striker has been inspiring form in front of goal, emerging as one of Bundesliga’s rising stars in the ongoing campaign – scoring 13 goals in just 24 league matches for the newly-promoted club.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a deep dive into Kalajdzic’s player profile and configure whether or not he could be an ideal fit at Anfield next season.
Tall Striker Goes Brrrr
One of the most distinguishable features for Kalajdzic is his towering 2m frame that makes him taller than the astounding tall Erling Haaland and even Wout Weghorst – both also prolific goalscorers in their own respect.
There are, however, significant differences between these three strikers, especially between Kalajdzic and Haaland, with the former fitting the stereotype of being an actual tall centre-forward.
Indeed, Kalajdzic is a brilliant header of the ball and one of the main indicators of his aerial prowess is the fact that the striker has averaged 5.17 attempted duels per game, which is fifth-highest in the league and ranks among the top quadrant in Europe’s top five leagues.
Six of his 13 goals have also come from headers – highest in the Bundesliga and along with Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) and Andy Delort (Montpellier), joint-highest in Europe’s top five leagues.
Kalajdzic is not particularly as dominating as the likes of Weghorst or Haaland when it comes to the physical side of the game, perhaps due to his lean figure that is only bound to improve with more experience and an improved diet.
The Austrian international is not the most agile centre-forward either, as, once again, his imposing figure makes it difficult for him to move around the pitch effortlessly. What he does possess, however, is the ability to sniff goalscoring opportunities – a quality that has helped him collect 13 goals in his debut Bundesliga campaign.
What he lacks in mobility and a relative lack of strength, Kalajdzic makes up for it with his aerial prowess and a tireless attitude.
In fact, the 23-year-old averages 5.15 pressures per 90, which ranks him at 81% percentile among Europe’s top five leagues. In the Bundesliga, his tally of 139 pressures in the final third is only beaten by other top strikers in the league including Haaland, Robert Lewandowski, Weghorst and Andre Silva among a few others.
Finally, another area where Kalajdzic certainly shines is his willingness to test the opposing goalkeeper. The Stuttgart forward attempts 3.3 shots on goal per 90, which is the sixth-highest in the league and marginally better than Haaland (3.26) himself!
Is he the Andy Carroll Liverpool need?
Before we stray any further in analysing how Kalajdzic could potentially fit in at Liverpool, it is only fair to shed some light on VfB Stuttgart.
Despite being a newly-promoted club in the Bundesliga, coach Pellegrino Matarazzo deserves a lot of credit for harvesting a group of talented attackers and moulding them into a collective unit that is one among the teams to have created the most chances in the league this campaign.
Indeed, the services of Daniel Didavi, Silas Wamangituka, Borna Sosa, Gonzalo Castro, Wataru Endo and even the alternatives like Tanguy Coulibaly, Mateo Klimowicz and Philipp Forster all play a key role in offering the supply for the likes of Kalajdzic and Nicolas Gonzalez.
Sosa, for one, has notched up eight assists in the league already, so one can definitely strike some similarity with Liverpool who also have quality wide players like Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold – both of whom are equally talented when it comes to whipping in crosses into the box.
The Reds may not have that harmony in the middle of the park, where the club has lacked creativity ever since the departure of Philippe Coutinho. But once Thiago settles in, we can expect more creative support from the middle, ultimately aiding someone like Kalajdzic.
As for Jurgen Klopp, we are all aware of the success the German had with a target man like Lewandowski during his time at Borussia Dortmund. Although Kalajdzic is nowhere near as agile, prolific or as talented as the Bayern Munich superstar, he certainly does have time on his side, to further improve his game.
Liverpool, on the other hand, didn’t have much success with their last target man in Christian Benteke. But in Kalajdzic, they could find themselves a smart striker who can not only sniff goalscoring opportunities but also has a fair bit of tactical knowledge and the ability to work his socks off for his team.
Those are indeed valued prospects for anyone playing under the leadership of Klopp. And as far as the comparison with Andy Carroll goes, it is difficult to predict his success at Anfield, but the Stuttgart man certainly provides better technical and tactical astuteness that are more suited to the modern game than Carroll ever was.
A lot could depend on how the Austrian international improves his game over the next few months and whether or not he can persist with his current run of form throughout the remainder of the campaign, before making that move to Liverpool that is certain to raise some eyebrows.