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Liverpool FC: Dominik Szoboszlai with the Reds



Dominik Szobozslai

Liverpool FC have signed Dominik Szoboszlai from RB Leipzig as part of their midfield restructuring. That’s why he fits so well into the system of the German coach.

Liverpool’s summer plans started off with a bang. For a while, Reds supporters had been hoping they could land Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund during the transfer window.

That dream was shattered in April when SPOX revealed Liverpool would be looking for other transfer targets costing less than €100m. In the weeks that followed, the Reds spent their budget elsewhere.

First they spent €42m on Brighton star and world champion Alexis Mac Allister – for which they received praise from all quarters. This good start to the summer transfer window was followed by another interesting deal: Dominik Szoboszlai’s move from Leipzig was confirmed on Sunday evening – just before his €70m release clause expired.

Although the Hungary international cost significantly more than Mac Allister, the enthusiasm for his arrival was just as great. SPOX shows why the ex-Leipziger fits so well into the system of LFC coach Jürgen Klopp.

Dominik Szoboszlai: midfielder or attacker?

Szoboszlai is a quick-change artist. Therefore, it is difficult to pinpoint its “strongest” position. Since moving from Salzburg to Leipzig in January 2021, he has shown how consistently he performs in different positions.

In his first Bundesliga season, he played 32 percent of his appearances as a left winger and 28 percent as a central midfielder. But he also played on the right wing and even as a centre-forward.

Last season Szoboszlai appeared to have found a permanent place in his club career for the first time. In almost 2,500 league minutes – only defender and compatriot Willi Orban had more – he was mainly used (77 percent) as a right attacking midfielder by coach Marco Rose in a 4-2-2-2 and was only used sporadically on the left side.

In the Hungarian national team, however, it was different: Szoboszlai was used as a left-attacking midfielder in a 3-4-3 system. This extreme versatility at such a young age speaks for his maturity and tactical intelligence.

Dominik Szoboszlai’s eye for the extraordinary

Sometimes one had the feeling that Szoboszlai’s footballing intelligence was underestimated. Because the 22-year-old was mostly reduced to his long-range shots.

His technique when shooting from a distance is exceptional. Like an Olympic sprinter, every movement is spot on. He simply bends his leg slightly and then punches through fully and precisely.

That makes it difficult to predict when he’ll fire off his next lightning shot – as Borussia Dortmund found out in October. After helping Orban open the scoring, Szoboszlai got a little too much space in front of the penalty area just before half-time.

The Leipzig number 17 shot without a hitch with a flick into the top corner to make it 2-0. It was the latest in a lengthening series of 30-metre goals. The angles he shoots from always seem to defy the laws of physics.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Szoboszlai scored the Premier League’s finest goal in the 2023/24 season.

Set pieces: Szoboszlai or Alexander-Arnold?

Loud transfer market he has scored eight direct free-kick goals in his club career so far and three more for Hungary.

These numbers are the result of an obsession from his childhood. In an interview withThe Athletic Szoboszlai confessed that when he was young he practiced about 200 free kicks every day and finally found the ideal technique for himself without getting any help.

It may have been exhausting, but today he is reaping the rewards. The impressive thing about his shooting technique is the variability. A closer look reveals that the speed, curve and direction are often completely different. Almost no goalkeeper can adjust to that. Only those who are flexible themselves have a chance.

Szoboszlai is also an excellent penalty taker. But here he is less flexible. He almost always aims in the lower left corner. But he’s also successful with that: he’s only missed one penalty in his career so far.

Its corners can also be a powerful creative weapon. It will be interesting to see who gets free-kicks, corners and penalties at Liverpool FC this season. The 22-year-old will reinforce Trent Alexander-Arnold’s excellent set pieces at Liverpool.

Dominik Szoboszlai: King of the last pass

Szoboszlai is one of the best playmakers in the world, but his creativity doesn’t rest solely on his own goalscoring ability. Last season there was no Bundesliga player who played more last passes before a shot on goal per 90 minutes on average.

Comparing those stats with the rest of Europe, the 22-year-old stands out. Only nine players in the continent’s top five leagues had a better SCA score last season. Three of the players who surpassed him are Lionel Messi, Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes.

Szoboszlai’s first assist in the Bundesliga had to be a cleverly executed free kick. However, central defender Mohamed Simakan missed touching the ball and Szoboszlai’s cross went straight into the goal.

He provided an even better assist a few weeks later in the 4-1 win over Greuther Fürth. There was something of De Bruyne as he played the outside of the foot pass perfectly to the back post to team-mate Hugo Novoa, who was able to slot in unhindered.

Dominik Szoboszlai: Catch him if you can

This goal against Fürth showed another strength of Szoboszlai: his outstanding ball handling. Before joining Novoa, he made Greuther Furth right-back Marco Meyerhofer look old. Thanks to his great first contact with the ball, he was able to take the leather with him perfectly – and quickly got into full swing. Once he’s up to speed, practically nobody can catch up with him.

Sure, this scene refers to an action against what is probably the worst Bundesliga team in recent history – but the Hungarian knew exactly what to do and even allowed himself a few jokes with the people of Fürth.

And even today he always marches forward: last season, Szoboszlai ran well over 100 meters per 90 minutes with the ball at his feet in the direction of the opponent’s goal.

But there is one thing that is lacking on the offensive: Dribbling is not an explicit strength of his – that’s why the tendency is clearly in central midfield and less on the wings.

Dominik Szoboszlai: Significantly improved duel behavior

Despite his promising offensive qualities, there were always doubts about his duel behavior. But thanks to coach Marco Rose, he has improved significantly in this area as well.

So it shouldn’t be a problem for Szoboszlai to meet Klopp’s high demands when it comes to pressing and defending. Although the former BVB coach must and will certainly teach him a few things here.

Loud Opta only ten Bundesliga players who played 2,000 minutes or more completed more sprints than him on average last season.

Szoboszlai does not act headless in pressing either: in the 2022/23 season he recorded 39 ball wins in the opposing third.

Dominik Szoboszlai: A typical Klopp player

So Szoboszlai seems to be a typical Klopp player. Not only can he press high, but his versatility means he’s able to score and set up goals from anywhere.

But what role does the German coach have in mind for his newcomer? Despite appearing to play on the right flank at Leipzig last season, he won’t be able to oust Mohamed Salah from his position.

It is much more likely that Szoboszlai will take the right-central midfield position that Jordan Henderson held towards the end of last season. After months of tactical inflexibility, Klopp finally relented and tinkered with his line-up a bit in April.

The biggest consequence: Trent Alexander-Arnold was given the freedom to play in midfield when the Reds had the ball. As a result of this change, Liverpool played in a 3-2-5 formation when in possession, with the two midfielders pushing forward ahead of Fabinho to create manpower situations in the last third.

That tactical switch resulted in a seven-game winning streak in the Premier League – and the prospect of Szoboszlai replacing Henderson in this formation is hugely exciting and could prove crucial.

Henderson was an excellent player, but he may not be as good as his likely successor. The captain’s strengths are rather defensive – Szoboszlai’s clearly in the offensive. With Szoboszlai, Luis Diaz, who is returning from injury, Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo, the Reds are sure to return to their old form in attack.

Dominik Szoboszlai: Will he become Haaland or Keita?

So on paper, the 22-year-old seems to be an almost perfect fit. But even the most optimistic Liverpool supporters will find it difficult to shake the nagging feeling of doubt at the back of their minds. You’ve burned yourself on a similar commitment before.

Naby Keita arrived from Leipzig in 2018 amid an even bigger wave of hype, for a similarly huge fee. Like Szoboszlai, he appeared to be a consummate Klopp player until now injuries and poor form condemned him to an involuntary exit. He ended up with Bundesliga relegation candidates Werder Bremen.

Other Premier League teams that have invested a lot of money in former Bundesliga stars have also been disappointed. Jadon Sancho, Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic have not been able to justify their high transfer fees since joining. Not every player can be an Erling Haaland.

But as our analysis shows: everything indicates that Klopp made an excellent catch with the ex-Leipziger.