Liverpool’s bright start to the 2016-17 Premier League campaign has already showcased some of the best football played by a single team in the country. Comprehensive wins over Arsenal, Leicester City, Chelsea and Hull City have rendered Jürgen Klopp’s side a force to be reckoned with, their only blip thus far being their dismal 2-0 defeat to Burnley at Turf Moor.
Several members of the squad have been showered with praise during that period, most notably James Milner, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane. While the trio directly contributed to each goal scored in their 5-1 dismantling of Hull City on Saturday, there is one player whose value to the side has gone unnoticed by the masses, Georginio Wijnaldum.
From an attacking standpoint, the Dutchman has added precious little to his team, a tally of two assists in six games representing a mediocre return. Yet there has been a marked improvement in his performances, with his previous season at Newcastle United being ranked as the comparison metric. On an average, Wijnaldum has made far more successful passes for his new club than he did at Tyneside, his total of 47 per game dwarfing a meagre 27 last season. Not only has he been entrusted with the ball more often than not, his work-rate off of it has risen significantly too. For instance, Wijnaldum has won more tackles and shown laudable discipline in midfield by not committing a single foul for Liverpool till now. He has also created more chances for his side, although the margins are fine in that department.
By and large, Wijnaldum has operated on the right-hand side of a midfield trio and has been ascertained the team’s regulator in the middle of the park. This was a role assigned to Joe Allen, who now plies his trade with Stoke City. Interestingly, in each of the aforementioned subdivisions, Wijnaldum has outshone his predecessor. While an argument can be made for the lack of game time Allen had to endure in his final season at Anfield, there is no questioning the marked difference in impact made by either player.
All that said and done, there have been instances of Wijnaldum being a mere passenger in his side’s efforts, the defeat at Burnley being a prime example. Yet he seems to have understood Klopp’s philosophy and tactics a whole lot better now and has acclimatized to the aggressive, energetic approach propagated by the German. On a personal front, the former PSV Eindhoven star has spoken of his desire to add more goals to his game and that is expected to bear fruit with time because unlike the system at Newcastle, Wijnaldum is not the team’s talisman and is now surrounded by players of higher calibre. To be the top scorer for your club and move to a less glamorous role in a new environment is not easy to digest but that only speaks about one side of the story. Alongside captain Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana, Wijnaldum has developed a stronger work ethic and overall, appears to have become a better footballer.