One of the main criticisms of Gini Wijnaldum during his time at Newcastle United was that he failed to contribute away from home, with all of his 11 league goals coming at St James’ Park. This was brushed aside as being caused by the team’s bad form on the road, but the Dutch international is having similar problems at Liverpool. There have been a number of fans commenting on his poor performances away and how he looks like a different player to the one that they see at Anfield. Interestingly, the stats seem to back this up and it could be that there is a mentality problem that prevents him from doing well away from home.
This season, the midfielder has contributed three goals and four assists in the Premier League. The majority of these have come at home, with only one assist coming away from Anfield and that was on the first day of the season against Arsenal. Since then, he hasn’t posed much of a threat and that is a concern as he is expected to play a part in attack. In terms of shots per ninety minutes, he averages 2.14 at home compared to 1.35 away. It would be expected that the team, and Wijnaldum by extension, will have more opportunities to score at Anfield. However, this clearly underlines the bigger threat that the Dutchman possesses when at home.
He sees more of the ball away from home, showing that he is an integral part of the side’s gameplan, despite his lack of influence. The former Newcastle player averages 53.8 passes per ninety minutes at an accuracy of 87.1%, compared to an average of 51 passes at an average of 87.9 at home. Moreover, he plays slightly lower key passes at 1.2 per ninety minutes on the road than he does at Anfield (1.3). Although these are only fractional differences, they do support the general point that Wijnaldum isn’t as good away from home.
Another example of how he is worse on his travels comes in terms of being dispossessed. The Dutchman is dispossessed an average of 1.36 in Liverpool, compared to 1.6 away. This is one of the more alarming stats for Jurgen Klopp as one of his first choice midfielders is losing the ball more often on the road, despite the team having a lower average possession when away.
One part of his game that is actually better away from home is his ball recoveries. This stands at an average of 2.7 per ninety minutes, compared to only 1.95 at Anfield. Although this is encouraging and underlines the hard work that Wijnaldum does go through when Liverpool are not at home, this could be explained by opposition teams being more attack-minded when they are the home side, which leads to them taking greater risks and playing into the Reds’ hands somewhat. That said, the Dutch international is clearly putting the effort in every week and it is only his attacking contribution that is majorly impacted when he is playing away.
The worrying part of Wijnaldum’s away form is that it has been an issue at both of the English clubs that he has played for. It could be a mental problem that he has brought with him from Newcastle, as he does seem to lack the confidence in the final third when he isn’t playing at Anfield. That is shown clearly by his average shot count. He is less prepared to take shots on when he is away from home and that could be impacting negatively on Liverpool’s attack. Despite the noticeable difference in his performances away from home, Wijnaldum remains a very talented player and this is a problem that can be overcome. All it could take is one goal away from home to remove the doubts from his mind.