Many eyebrows were raised when Jurgen Klopp moved for Georginio Wijnaldum of Newcastle United. The Dutch attacker had just been relegated from the Premier League and no one expected Klopp to shell out £25 million for the services of the 25-year-old.
No one would have thought that Wijnaldum would actually start games for Liverpool but the former PSV star has become a regular in the midfield. That has been the bone of contention from many quarters, what is the best position for the Dutch star?
Liverpool have been deploying him in a midfield trio containing Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana. Truth be told, Wijnaldum has been average for the Merseyside club so far. The midfielder scored 11 goals last season for Newcastle in the Premier League and 10 of those goals came from inside the box.
That should give a clear indication of where Wijnaldum thrives. The position the former Newcastle star should play in is just behind the main striker but the Liverpool manager does not seem to trust him for that role. Wijnaldum does fit the bill when it comes to being a Klopp footballer though.
The German wants players who fit his “Gegenpressing” football and Wijnaldum should be an easy fit for the side. His endless running and ability to put the defence under pressure is what Klopp wants. But the only way the best can be extracted from the 25-year-old is giving him that free license to roam about but in the final third of the pitch.
Playing him in midfield with Henderson or Lallana puts the added burden of defensive duties and tracking back regularly. Wijnaldum actually is great in the final third and along with Roberto Firmino, he could be the hard working and pressing attacker that Klopp wants.
Keeping him in the midfield trio is not working at the moment. Wijnaldum seems to be light and he isn’t a match for some of the other central midfielders in the Premier League. Emre Can and Henderson working in tandem actually makes better sense than Lallana, Henderson and Wijnaldum.
The change also has to come with the formation that Liverpool are currently applying. The 4-3-3 does give them the width they need with Sadio Mane on one side and Philippe Coutinho on the other but the link from midfield to attack is greatly missing.
Starting with two holding midfielders does make sense for the Merseyside club and Wijnaldum would be a crucial part of it, only if he is played directly behind the striker.
Jurgen Klopp had stated that he will stick with this team and formation for the time being. The German is certain about his philosophy and his success at Borussia Dortmund was not created over time. That was a project that took meticulous planning and it does seem that the same is being done at Liverpool.
Sadio Mane has found his calling at the club and Georginio Wijnaldum would be expecting that too. The price tag might seem a little steep but the Premier League is an inflated market. Wijnaldum was one of the bright sparks for Newcastle last season and he could star for the Reds but only if he is pushed into the attack and not left to rot in midfield.