Dave Davis takes a look at Georginio Wijnaldum’s growing influence on Liverpool after many questioned his £25 million move in the summer.
When Georginio Wijnaldum was first linked with Liverpool, to say there wasn’t a great fanfare is putting it mildly. Reds fans everywhere were expecting Jürgen Klopp to purchase a holding midfielder or someone that could control the game from deep. An attacking midfielder who could get the odd goal wasn’t something that we appeared short of. It might be that Wijnaldum has become crucial to Liverpool in recent times, though.
The Dutch midfielder’s performance against Spurs was his best of the season without a doubt. He ran, harried, won back the ball numerous times and his assist for Sadio Mané’s first was simply sublime. One thing that was noticeable was the confidence that appeared to flow through the 26-year-old as a few flicks and tricks came to the fore in the right areas.
The biggest criticism of Wijnaldum has been that he plays it too safe at times. It’s not one that has been reserved for him, though, as the charge has been levelled at numerous Liverpool midfielders throughout the season. Quite often the former Feyenoord captain has found himself in decent positions, but a lack of composure or conviction has meant that a player who netted eleven times for Newcastle is nowhere near that current mark.
His role under Klopp hasn’t been what many expected it to be and that maybe one of the reasons for the critique. Wijnaldum has been asked to be an all-action player, one of the players that defines the managers high-intensity, pressing style. His running stats for the season are up there with anyone and at the weekend, he won the ball back numerous times in different areas of the pitch. It’s often forgotten that Wijnaldum also possesses a decent turn of pace, far more than Henderson or Can anyway.
Big goals have also been a crucial part of the £25 million midfielder’s make-up this season. The winner against Manchester City and equaliser against Chelsea have been crucial and impressively, he now has four assists to his name for the season. That’s up there with players perceived to be greater creative forces such as Coutinho and Lallana.
Wijnaldum has a long way to go before he’s mentioned in Anfield folklore, but there’s a groundswell of opinion that he’s coming to grips with what’s expected at Liverpool. The Can-Wijnaldum debate now appears defunct, partly down to the German’s alarming loss of form, but mainly due to the 26-year-old’s all-round contribution. More performances like yesterday and you may find the groundswell becomes something more.
Follow Dave on Twitter if you would like to discuss Wijnaldum’s impressive display at Anfield last Saturday.