Jamal Lewis has become our third signing in a matter of days and the excitement is building about the upcoming season.
The left back position has been a problematic one for us in recent years. Paul Dummett has been a solid player, but he is functional and there are limitations to his game. Achraf Lazaar and Antonio Barreca made little impact. Jetro Willems showed promise before getting hurt and Danny Rose didn’t look like he cared.
Hopefully this provides a long term solution and Lewis can continue his development on Tyneside. It is rare for us to sign a young, promising British player and I hope this is the start of it becoming a more regular occurrence. There is a lot of talent, especially in the Football League and it is a market that we have rarely looked to utilise under Ashley. Below, we detail what we can expect from the left-back
It won’t surprise many, but Lewis is very much a modern day full-back. He has been allowed to develop in a Norwich team that gives license to their full-backs to join the attacks. During the last two seasons, he has been one of the regulars under Daniel Farke. The reputation of Lewis and Norwich right-back Max Aarons has grown a lot, with both being linked to top-six teams.
The above touch map shows that Lewis is a player that likes to get up and down the left flank. It was important for us to recruit a left-back with an engine to do this, as our left wingers like to move inside. Allan Saint-Maximin causes most damage when he is given freedom to roam, while Ryan Fraser likes to cut inside into the half-space due to his favoured right foot. The addition of Lewis will give us the extra dimension we need in possession.
It is clear to see the type of player Lewis is in possession. He likes to dribble with the ball and he is effective at it. Smarterscout has a rating similar to the Fifa video game series and our new left-back is regarded as very good at running with the ball. If he plays down the same side as Saint-Maximin, it could be great to watch. His link-up play and shooting is impressive for a full-back.
Liverpool are a club that is run very smartly and the recruitment relies heavily on data analytics. Lewis was their first choice target to come in as a back-up for Andrew Robertson. Seeing how he ranks in possession above, it is easy to see why.
However, for us, he will be relied on to do a lot more defensive work. His aerial presence looks to be an obvious concern, especially from open play. Teams may look to exploit that. That said, he shows strongly in ground duels and that is encouraging. At the age of 22, it would be expected that he will continue to improve, both physically and technically. The above graphic suggests that Lewis is a very good prospect.
The reasons for targeting Jamal Lewis become evident when you compare him to Danny Rose. Last season’s loanee was signed with a hope that he could return to his best on Tyneside, but he was a shadow of his former self. Although he was rarely dispossessed, he wasn’t very progressive in possession.
Lewis will offer a clear improvement in that regard, as shown above. Last season, he averaged 1.45 successful dribbles per ninety minutes at a success rate of 59.7%. This should add a little bit more dynamism to our build-up play and offer another option in possession. At times last season, we were too reliant on the attackers with the full-backs offering little with the ball.
In defence, the former Norwich man looks to be a solid operator, with an average of 4.38 successful pressures and 3.3 ball recoveries per ninety minutes. His aerial success rate of 32.4% is a concern, but it wasn’t an area that Rose (42.9%) thrived in either.
This could be the most exciting signing of the window, as Lewis was a player on the radar of top clubs. He will be stronger for playing in the Premier League last season, but he still has a point to prove that he is good enough for this level. We should benefit from that.
Since the departure of Jose Enrique, we have been crying out for a left-back that could contribute in both halves of the pitch. Davide Santon and Jetro Willems both showed positive sides, but neither could grab the position for a long time. The latter was very unfortunate with injuries. Although it would have been nice to see him back at the club, Lewis looks a safer bet for the long term.
We need a left-back that is comfortable covering a lot of ground and talented enough to contribute in the attacking half. Both Saint-Maximin and Fraser like to move into central areas when playing on the left, therefore it is important we have a left-back that can progress beyond them.
Lewis is that man. It should be very exciting to watch him continue his development on Tyneside.