Since joining Liverpool, Gini Wijnaldum has been a regular in the first team and his performances have split the fan-base. The majority recognise the qualities that he brings to the team, but there remain a few doubters. Although his fee looked steep at the time, it now seems good value compared to the transfers of Yannick Bolasie and Moussa Sissoko. The prices of players have sky-rocketed out of control and for that reason, the £25m fee shouldn’t be used against him. He was signed as he has the work rate and ability on the ball to thrive in the formation being played at Liverpool, which has been evident since moving to Anfield.
The reason why he was signed by Liverpool is his ability to play a number of roles in midfield. He is able to play in a number of central roles, while he can play on the wing too. At the moment, he is being used in a midfield three alongside Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson. The Dutch international is playing a box-to-box role, which isn’t his best position, but he has been playing well. His energy makes him perfect for a Klopp side, while his ability to carry the ball has improved Liverpool in transition.
Liverpool fans that have been comparing his attacking contribution to what it was at Newcastle are being unfair to the 25-year-old. He was the key player at St James’ Park and was utilised in a more advanced role. His best position is the number ten role, which he played at Newcastle, scoring eleven goals in the process. However, he has been moved into a deeper position at Liverpool and will continue to improve in the coming weeks as he adjusts to the new role.
He has been influential in the final third, but it has been his creativity rather than goal threat that has impressed. The 25-year-old has two assists to his name and has been creating a chance every 50.42 minutes, which is an excellent return from the first seven matches as part of a new team. There is no doubting his quality in the attacking half and as the season progresses, I’d expect the Dutchman to contribute frequently with both goals and assists.
A major change has been the defensive work that he has to carry out at Liverpoool, that he didn’t have to do at Newcastle. Last season, he was one of the key attacking players for the Magpies and as such, he was let off by Steve McClaren when it came to his off the ball work. He did tend to coast through games at times and was even dropped by Rafa Benitez towards the end of the season, as the Spaniard wasn’t impressed by Wijnaldum’s lack of desire on the pitch.
He has made seven tackles and three interceptions since the start of the season, which shows that he is willing to put in his defensive work. That said, these figures aren’t particularly great for a side that presses as highly as Liverpool. Wijnaldum should be recovering the ball more frequently in the middle of the park. As he gains more experience working with Jurgen Klopp, I’d expect these figures to increase as the German’s system can take some time to properly understand.
In short, Wijnaldum has shown glimpses of his ability, but hasn’t set the world on fire since moving to Liverpool. This is mainly due to the change in role as he is now playing in a deeper role and has less freedom to join attacks. In the current set-up at Liverpool, he would be best suited to playing in the most advanced central midfield role, which Adam Lallana currently occupies. This would give the Dutchman a license to bomb forward and get into the positions that he thrived in at Newcastle. It is early days in his Reds career, but Wijnaldum has a lot of the attributes that Klopp wants in his players and I’d expect him to improve in the coming weeks.