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Liverpool are still believed to be in the market for another striker to try and replace the goals of Luis Suarez this season, but they are also looking to the future, and Fulham's Patrick Roberts has emerged as a potential target for the Reds.
Despite their relegation last season, Fulham have one of the best youth set-ups in English football. Roberts is one of the most highly-rated talents at Craven Cottage, and he has already been described as a future England international as a result of his undeniable natural ability. He has made two impressive substitute appearances in the Championship so far this season, and they will only increase the hype currently surrounding the 17-year-old.
The England youth international has been linked with both Arsenal and Manchester United in the past, but Brendan Rodgers has proven his ability to work with young players at Anfield, and the likes of Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Jon Flanagan all developed very impressively last year. If Liverpool do manage to sign him then Roberts would reportedly return to Fulham on loan - but could he eventually become a star at Anfield?
Since losing Suarez, Liverpool have spent very heavily on attacking midfielders. It would be impossible to replace Suarez's overall influence on the team, and while they are still looking for another striker, they haven't spent big money on the likes of Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic for them to only be squad players.
As such, their transfer strategy suggests that Daniel Sturridge will be the team's main striker, supported by a number of midfielders. If Roberts were to join Liverpool, he wouldn't be expected to make an immediate impact in the first team, but his ability to play on the right wing or as a second striker appears to make him ideal for the system Liverpool will use this season.
He came on as a second-half substitute against both Ipswich and Millwall, and though Fulham lost both games, his displays offered real encouragement. In both fixtures, Roberts entered the fray with Fulham behind, but he has shown he is ready to assume responsibility despite his lack of experience.
He completed 92% of his passes after coming on against Ipswich and he provided the assist for right-back Tim Hoogland to pull a goal back. His passing was again impressive against Millwall, where he completed 90% of his passes, and created two chances for his team-mates.
His desire to get on the ball and make things happen is very exciting to watch, but he has yet to really show off his dribbling in first-team football, which is his best quality. He has completed three of his five attempted take-ons in the Championship so far this season, but there is much more to come from him in this regard.
Liverpool were a surprise package last season, and no one expected them to challenge for the title so strongly before the campaign kicked off. Teams will know what to expect this year, and they will now have to deal with facing teams who set up merely to avoid defeat.
Even the best teams can struggle to break down walls of well-drilled defenders and a player who can create space and opportunities for themselves is invaluable. Liverpool had Suarez and Raheem Sterling in their ranks last season, both of whom can unlock a defence, and Roberts has the potential to become a similarly dangerous attacking threat.
When he runs with the ball he is reminiscent of Sterling; both players have extraordinarily quick feet, which allows them to weave their way out of tight situations, often to the embarrassment of defenders. As well as having great skill, Roberts is very fast, and he has a low centre of gravity which makes it even harder for opponents to stop him when he gets into his stride.
Once he beats his man, there is an end product as well, and he has shown himself to be a clinical finisher at youth level for club and country - scoring seven goals in 14 appearances for England Under-17s.
Roberts plays without any fear, and that would hold him in good stead if he moves to Anfield, as players with more experience than him have struggled to cope with the spotlight that comes with playing for a club of Liverpool's stature.
Liverpool have several young attacking players who have proven themselves in the top flight and can go on to play for the club for years to come in Sturridge, Sterling and Coutinho. Roberts is a prodigious talent, and though he is still very inexperienced, he could join that group with Rodgers' guidance.
- Luis Suarez
- Patrick Roberts
- Raheem Sterling