David Haimovich makes his OOTB debut, looking at Georginio Wijnaldum and where the Dutchman will fit in at Liverpool
With the transfer window across Europe being open for almost a month, a lot of deals have been agreed and inevitably, a lot of rumours and speculations are doing the rounds around all media platforms. One of the busiest markets in the football world is England, home of the Premier League which always provides the most intriguing transfer deals. This season also brings a lot of interest on the touchlines, which will always cause a lot of movement in and out of clubs.
So far, Premier League clubs have conducted 168 transfer deals, and according to transfermarkt.com they have spent so far an estimated 578.15 Million Euros. One of the busiest clubs of this transfer window is Liverpool. The reds have seen 12 players leave the club, some of them on loans, and have added to the squad 6 new players. The latest addition to the squad is the 25 year old Dutch midfielder, Georginio Wijnaldum, arriving on Merseyside from Tyneside for a fee of around 25 Million euros. Wijnaldum was not Liverpool’s first choice in the market. After a failed pursuit of Piotr Zielinski, Udinese and Poland national team midfielder, the reds turned to Wijnaldum.
Taking a look at Wijnaldum’s stats in his first season in the Premier League for Newcastle can be deceiving. Having participated in all of the fixtures, he managed to score 11 goals and assist 5, quite productive for an attacking midfielder, but as we all know, he ended the season being relegated with Newcastle.
Positional Play and Contribution
For Newcastle, Wijnaldum was used mostly as an attacking central midfielder behind the striker (16 apps) but also as an attacking left midfielder (18 apps) . four more appearances as a central midfielder gives him the edge of establishing his favoured position somewhere in the centre.
The current Liverpool squad has an overflow of midfielders. Under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool has lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. At the moment, in the central midfielder position the German has at his disposal: Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Emre Can, Lucas Leiva, and Marko Grujic. While Henderson and Milner are more 50-50 midfielders, Can and Lucas are more defensive minded and are utilised as the holding midfielder allowing their partner more freedom to join the attack and get in the box, a thing that Wijnaldum is very capable of. Liverpool was lacking goals from midfield last season, Coutinho was the top scorer in the league among the midfielders listed above with 8, and if we combine the contribution of Milner, Can, Henderson and Lallana they surpass Wijnaldum by one.
To be fair, Wijnaldum has played more league games than any of Liverpool’s midfielders, so that’s something that needs to be considered. In terms of assists, the picture is slightly different. While Wijnaldum registered 5, Milner is leading the bunch with 11 followed by Lallana with 6 and Coutinho with 5.
Having covered the option of playing as Central Midfielder, Wijnaldum’s natural position is an AMC. The competition for a place in the starting eleven will leave 3 spots up for grabs due to Klopp’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Last season these spots were occupied by Lallana, Coutinho, and Firmino, with Milner, also opting as one of the three attacking midfielders, mostly in matches where Firmino was performing as a striker. Another player who will challenge for one of those spots is the latest acquisition from Southampton, Sadio Mane. In comparison between the 5 attacking midfielders, excluding Milner, Mane, Wijnaldum and Firmino have similar stats. Mane and Wijanldum both scored 11 goals each and Firmino 10. As far as assists are concerned, the latter has the edge with 7 compared to Mane’s 6 and Wijnaldum’s 5.
Style of Play
Liverpool’s style of play is clear, Jurgen Klopp’s “Gegenpressing” , which is well known for a high tempo pressing style high up the pitch, in order to make the opposition lose the ball in danger areas, that have the potential to create many scoring chances. To deploy such a tactic, the manager has got to have very dynamic players who enjoy playing a direct style, and Wijnaldum fits the bill.
Coming from the centre of the park, Wijnaldum always looks to drive upon the opponent with pace and power. Another very bold aspect of his play is that he constantly looks to get into the box. A proof of that ability is that out of his 11 league goals, 10 came from inside the area. He may not shoot very often, but when he does he knows how to hit them boasting a 71% shot accuracy, he tops his new teammates in that front. Nonetheless, his high shot accuracy contributes to a high conversion rate of 20%, 11 goals out of 54 shots. As for creating chances, he is joint with Firmino on 48 chances created, falling short by only one chance after Coutinho and Lallana. Although it has to be noted, that he played the most matches of all the players being considered and might have registered lower numbers in certain aspects of the game, he is very efficient.
As for his passing range, he clearly was the focal point of Newcastle last season, managing to rack up 1,238 passes in total(Only second to Moussa Sissoko), 719 of them going forward. You can see why Klopp likes him. Wijanldum is also a decent dribbler, he managed to complete 50 take ons last season. Compared to his new teammates, he also leads this aspect, edging Coutinho by one.
As for recovering posession, an aspect crucial in Klopp’s game plan, he has won 31 tackles, 2 more than Coutinho but much less than Lallana, Firmino, and Milner. What’s most impressive about Wijnaldum’s ball retention, is that considering that he is only 1.75 meters, he managed to win 25 aerial duels, far more than Coutinho and Firmino who have won 12 combined.
After covering Wijnaldum’s array of abilities, It’s time to see how Liverpool might lineup with him in the squad. With Klopp using a lot the 4-2-3-1 formation, Wijnaldum can operate in a few positions. One is in centre of the park alongside a more defensive midfielder, which will allow him the freedom to get forward.
He can also be operated as the AMC or the AML. In fact, all of Liverpool’s attacking midfielders are very versatile and can play all around, left, right, or centre.
Klopp doesn’t shift much from his beloved 4-2-3-1, but on some occasions, depending on the opponent and players available, he changes the formation to a 4-3-3 which is quite similar to the 4-2-3-1. In a 4-3-3 formation:
Wijnaldum clearly has the ability and attributes to suit Liverpool’s style of play under Jurgen Klopp. He has proven to be able to play in several positions across the midfield leaving his selection a bit of a headache to the manager. The picture of where Wijnaldum will play exactly will become clearer as the transfer window progresses and Liverpool will reduce its options in midfield.
Written by David Haimovich