Wijnaldum quietly becoming a crucial cog to Liverpool

Adam Brown

When Jurgen Klopp gave the go-ahead for Liverpool to sign Georginio Wijnaldum for £25million from relegated Newcastle United, many fans were unsure. Was the Dutchman the quality the Reds needed in midfield? Had he proven enough? These were all fair concerns, especially as Liverpool were technically signing a Championship player.

Klopp was right. After the first half of the season, it’s looking like good business for Liverpool. However, if you don’t recognise the contributions of the former PSV Eindhoven midfielder, you need to look closer.

With three goals and four assists in 20 starts in the Premier League for the Reds, Wijnaldum’s stats aren’t exactly enough to convince everyone that he’s worth £25million. But not just that, his highlight package from memorable games may show him squandering a shot or two. Should he have won the game against Manchester United? Probably. But he’s done more than enough in other games to show he deserves to be starting for Liverpool.

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Importantly for the Reds, they’ve signed a player who is not shy of the big games. Someone who isn’t going to go missing (like Ozil) when they’re required to step up. With goals against Manchester City and Chelsea, as well as an excellent performance against Spurs, Wijnaldum is winning over the Anfield crowd.

There are also areas of Wijnaldum’s game which are potentially overlooked. The Liverpool man rarely gives up the ball, but he also contributes massively to winning it back. His pressing suits Jurgen Klopp’s style perfectly, forcing players into mistakes, and strong tackling. In N’Golo Kante and Victor Wanyama, Wijnaldum has came up against some of the league’s strongest midfielders, but he’s never looked second best.

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What the Liverpool midfielder also offers is direct runs into the box. This distinguishes him from others, would we ever see runs of this nature from the likes of Emre Can or Jordan Henderson? Very rarely, which is why at times when Can and the Liverpool captain have played together this season, opponents have found it easy to keep the Reds at bay.

Wijnaldum is an all-rounder, he’s used to being an attacking-midfielder from his days at PSV, but by no means is he limited to that. Whilst defenders are tracking the runs of Liverpool’s flourishing attack, the Dutch man looks to take advantage of the spaces leftover. If your midfielders aren’t prepared to make runs into the box, even if they know they might not get the ball, then don’t expect to cause trouble for a solid defensive unit, like Chelsea, Burnley or Hull. In the game against the Tigers where Wijnaldum didn’t play – Liverpool didn’t ask many questions of Marco Silva’s team at all. Players need to make better runs.

Statistics from September show that he had actually started well at Liverpool. To be fair though, unless you’re a Liverpool fan – you’re never going to be able to see the full extent of a player. Whilst it’s a lot easier for football fans to collectively agree on a striker from how many goals they’ve scored, the work of an industrious midfielder can often go unnoticed. There’s simply not enough time in a highlights package to showcase the skills of a midfielder if he isn’t scoring frequently. But those fans that watch all of the games should notice the little things that make a difference – like maintaining the ball and having good tactical awareness. The Dutchman brings both these skills and more to Liverpool.

Wijnaldum has enjoyed a successful start from early on in his Liverpool career, but it is only until recently that he has done enough for a spotlight to shine on him. Klopp has shown again that he is very smart in the transfer market. It may annoy Liverpool fans that they’re not targeting players from Europe’s elite, but when has Klopp ever done that? Acquiring players like Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Lech Poznan and Saint-Etienne respectively.

It’s not often we see a player from a relegated side come back into the Premier League and be successful, but Wijnaldum has proven his initial critics wrong. Worth £25million? Definitely in this era. His all-round style alone makes him a great asset to any team.

Although she was old, she was still fit. It was a 45-minute walk to training but she would walk with me, even in winter. She never let me go alone.

She told me that always I have to be myself and I am the same person I was before for my friends and family.

Gini Wijnaldum speaking about his Grandmother

Always good to see a humble player, too! Class.

Wijnaldum’s unsung hero status may see him push for an improved deal, especially after Coutinho’s eye-watering new contract, which now puts the Brazilian ahead of this lot!

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