Liverpool's transfer plans for summer are reported to have been stepped up in the last few days, with boss Brendan Rodgers said to be watching one of his targets at close quarters.
The Times (subscription required) is claiming that the Reds boss was in the stands at the recent Arsenal vs. Wigan Athletic match with the specific remit of watching Latics duo James McCarthy and Callum McManaman to assess whether they would be suitable signings in the summer ahead.
With Wigan Athletic having now been relegated from the Premier League—just days after winning the FA Cup—it is entirely possible that both young players could be on their way out of the DW Stadium after the season ends.
McManaman has impressed over the past couple of months since forcing his way into the first team on a regular basis, but would he be a good fit for Liverpool?
Position and Abilities
McManaman mainly operates from the right side of Wigan's attack, with them playing a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3 formation. He is often found receiving the ball very wide on the flank, almost touchline-hugging, but he does not play the traditional winger role of sprinting down the line and crossing.
He has also operated from the left, giving him the option of cutting infield on his stronger right foot, and can also play centrally though it is not his usual role.
Like his namesake and former Reds captain Steve, Callum McManaman is hugely gifted with the ball at his feet and has a powerful dribbling style that sees him able to beat defenders. Playing either side, he prefers to run down the channels and move infield rather than stick to the flanks, and his big strength is in committing defenders early before changing direction with pace and power.
Nonetheless, McManaman is not the type—or is not playing in a team which lets him—to run with the ball every time he receives it. He averages less than one dribble per Premier League appearance, though with many of those from earlier in the season coming as substitute, the statistic is skewed a little.
His shooting has seemingly improved over the latter part of the season, scoring his first two Premier League goals within the past month as well as hitting three FA Cup goals since February.
McManaman, as a young inexperienced attacker, is perhaps predictably a more instinctive player at present than one who can read and react to in-game situations. He is a big threat on the ball, but his movement could certainly use more improvement.
Tactically, he operates within clearly defined structures under boss Roberto Martinez at Wigan, and he has been substituted often in league matches when the manager opts to switch formations during games.
What do Liverpool Already Have?
In terms of wide forwards, the Reds use Stewart Downing regularly from the right side of the attack. During the first half of the season, it was youngster Raheem Sterling and, at times, Suso who filled the same position.
Downing, as the senior member of the team, will be the player most at risk of losing his place in the team, or indeed in the squad, if the Reds opt to sign McManaman—or another right-sided forward—but Brendan Rodgers is placing a lot of faith in the future continued growth and impact of the likes of Sterling too.
Bringing the likes of McManaman into the team would, at the very least, hinder the chances the young players have of gaining more game time, though on the positive side it would increase the options open to Rodgers and add a more dynamic approach to that side of the attack.
Fee, Future, Likelihood
It has taken McManaman quite some time to break into the first-team scene on a regular basis, and even now, at age 22, he has still played less than 100 senior matches all told.
Though he has had a big impact over the past few months, it perhaps bears comparison with Sunderland winger James McClean, who had an effective second-half of the campaign at his club last season after breaking into the team yet has struggled to match the expectations in his first full campaign.
No fee is mentioned for the potential signing of McManaman, but any potential fee would presumably be lowered on account of Wigan's relegation to the Championship.
He has three more seasons remaining on his contract, so Wigan will not be in any rush to sell as they bid to put a squad together that can bounce back into the Premier League at the first attempt.
While McManaman is undoubtedly a promising talent, his age relative to the experience he has so far gained and the younger options in the Liverpool squad already perhaps marks him out as one to keep a watch on, rather than immediately sign this season.
A full campaign in the Championship will not harm his development any, where, including cup games, he could feature in up to 50 games or so. Would he get anything like that game time at Anfield? Perhaps, but, in that case, the likes of Sterling and Suso, and beyond them, Jordon Ibe, Jack Dunn and others, would certainly be watching from the sidelines rather than continuing their development in the first team.
It would be something of a gamble if Liverpool went for McManaman with the view of him being a regular first-teamer next season, though, if the fee is reasonable and certain other players are making way, he still could be an interesting addition to the squad.