Opinion: How Georginio Wijnaldum has become a key cog in Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool machine

Opinion: How Georginio Wijnaldum has become a key cog in Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool machine

The Dutch midfielder is flouring in a deeper role this season, but how has he gone about succeeding ins his new role?

dan-robinson
Dan Robinson

He's a coward. He goes missing away from home. He only performs for the television cameras. He's got no heart. 

That was the discourse around Georginio Wijnaldum from supporters of Newcastle United last season and, we were told, it was the same player that Liverpool had shelled out £25 million for in the summer. 

Look, Newcastle supporters know what they're on about. To suggest their opinion didn't have some element of truth would be nothing short of ignorant considering the abject season they were subjected to over the ten months of 2015-16.

With that in mind, it was only natural that the capture of Wijnaldum was met by an underwhelmed Liverpool fan base with some level of confusion. 

But that's not the player Jürgen Klopp thought he was getting and it isn't the player he's had. 

Upon signing the Dutchman, Klopp admitted that he hadn't followed Wijnaldum's short career on Tyneside, but had taken a keen interest when he was a youngster at Feyenoord. Klopp spoke highly of the 26-year-old's ability as a midfielder player and his versatility.

He wasn't buying another winger or luxury attacking option as everyone else thought. Right from the beginning, he wanted Wijnaldum in the midfield  - and if he's needed to fill-in further up the pitch or on the wing? That's fine. He can do a job. 

Dropping deeper

If you'd have said at the start of the summer that Adam Lallana and Wijnaldum would be two of Liverpool's starting central midfielders this season, you'd have been taken away in a white van. Or told to delete your Twitter account. 

Both had forged their careers playing off the flank or as 'number 10's inhabiting 'the hole' behind the striker. This season, instead, they've dove-tailed to near perfection in front of the sitting Jordan Henderson. 

Wijnaldum knits everything together, acting as the conduit between Henderson and Lallana. The Dutchman has slipped into the role with such ease that the loss of Joe Allen -  the man who performed a similar task at a level that was very difficult to replace - has not been felt at all. 

This Wijnaldum, the one that Klopp wanted, is one of the most accomplished midfielders you'll find in the Premier League. He tackles, spins and shrugs off his man. He prods and probes, carries it and creates. He's put in immense performances away at Stamford Bridge and at Goodison Park

But he lacks goals and he lacks assists. He lacks the hard numbers to be highly and widely acclaimed. He's the complete opposite of the player that smashed four goals in against Norwich at St James' Park and then apparently hid for the rest of the season. 

This season, Lallana does not lack goals and assists and, as the side's irrepressible driving force, he is deservedly taking the majority of the acclaim.

Adding goals

Wijnaldum does have two goals in a Liverpool shirt. Both came in the Premier League, his first late on in a demolition of Watford and the other was the winner in a 1-0 victory over Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

When Ben Woodburn made history with his record-breaking goal against Leeds United, it was Wijnaldum's quick thinking that resulted in the lay-off for the 17-year-old's big moment. In the opening day carnage at the Emirates, Wijnaldum played a big part in the three goals Liverpool scored in that 20-minute blitz of Arsenal

A section of the Reds' support have already taken to the midfielder, admiring the contribution he makes to the team without those hard numbers.

There's no doubt, however, that if Wijnaldum is to continue winning hearts and minds, then he'll need to more regularly show the instinct in the final third that he's shown at his previous clubs. 

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