Gini Wijnaldum put in a strange performance against Leeds United on Monday evening. The Dutchman was largely absent.
Liverpool did play a game on Monday evening, even if it might not hold much relevance in the long-run. The Reds don’t seem to care about Champions League qualification, after all.
But let’s not talk about the European Super League for once – let’s focus on the game. It was a disappointing one in the end, as Liverpool failed to capitalise on first-half dominance to drop two points.
It was also a fairly unique game. The Reds had under 39 per cent possession in it – their lowest figure all season. In fact, their lowest in the Premier League before this was 46 per cent, a sizeable jump.
That figure means players didn’t have many touches. Roberto Firmino, for instance, had just 40 in 90 minutes. For comparison, the Brazilian had 31 against West Ham United in January – he only played 20 minutes in that one.
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Firmino had the second-lowest number of touches of any outfield Liverpool player to make 90 minutes. The lowest was Gini Wijnaldum, who managed just 24 touches against Leeds.
That’s 15 fewer than Alisson Becker. Mohamed Salah got halfway to 24 in just 20 minutes. 24 is a really, really low number.
Wijnaldum only attempted 16 passes over 90 minutes, completing 15. He made no dribbles, nor did any of his passes create chances. The Dutchman was essentially absent.
And that was a huge problem. Wijnaldum played the holding role – he was essentially the player who needed to get the game under control. Instead, he wasn’t involved.
Thiago, for comparison, completed 37 passes. Three led to chances, and he had the ball 55 times. That’s what Liverpool needed.
In fact, James Milner also had 55 touches. Wijnaldum, with under 50 per cent of each, stands out.
We’re not sure how to feel about his performance, either. Wijnaldum will likely leave at the end of the season, while we don’t like him in holding midfield anyway.
Instead, Liverpool should treat this as a warning. Without Fabinho or Jordan Henderson in that holding role, the Reds lack someone who can both defend solidly and dominate possession.
Thus in future, perhaps a change of system is necessary. If Liverpool lack a holding player who can do what they need, they should consider just not using one. Otherwise, you end up with performances like this that hurt the side.