When Gini Wijnaldum came on at half time for the injured Andy Robertson, nobody predicted what would happen next. Liverpool were 1-3 down against Barcelona on aggregate in the Champions League semi-final with it all still to do. Yet merely 20 minutes after his introduction to the game, Wijnaldum had turned the tie in Liverpool’s favour with two superb goals. Not only this, his all-round performance was what we’ve come to expect and more from Gini as he brimmed with assertion. He admitted at full time that he was disappointed to have been omitted from the start, and proved a point after coming on.Here is a closer look at the Dutchman’s crucial contribution to that famous ‘remontada’ night by LFC Transfer Room writer Scott Groom.
One year on from that magical night, we haven’t seen this too many more times from Liverpool’s number five. While I’m a huge fan of Wijnaldum and think he’s criminally underrated, this is an aspect of his game we need more of. His usual role in the midfield sees him shielding the defence and helping to turn that into an attack.
Gini does drive forward, but perhaps not with the prominence or effectiveness that we saw against Barca. He occupied dangerous positions in the final third, made brilliant runs from deep and was a constant attacking outlet. His finishing ability shouldn’t have been too surprising considering his record for Holland, too. But this is part of the problem – we don’t see this often enough in Liverpool red.
Before I go any further, it’d be unfairto lay all of the blame for this at Gini’s feet. In that miraculous win over Barca, his role was different to his usual duties. Klopp utilised him higher up the field, with Fabinho taking the role as the defensive protector. While he isn’t always deployed here, it does feel like Wijnaldum is seen more as a defensive than attacking option.
But regardless, he often features as one of the frontal two in that midfield three and should break forward more often. We see it when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain plays there, and increasingly so with Jordan Henderson, too. So it’s not entirely his fault or the fault of the system, maybe a combination of the two? Whatever it is, this is where I feel the Dutchman needs to up his game most. It would benefit the team massively and help to provide an extra threat behind the front three. He’s proven that he can do it for club and country, it just needs to happen on a more consistent basis. If he could add this to his game, it’dreally start to silence some of his critics.
Wijnaldum is often one of the first players on the pitch, most often wrongly, to be called out as not contributing enough. This is a lazy criticism in the first instance, but adding that tangible threat of creating and scoring goals would certainly help. But it’d help him as a player and the team as a whole too.
Sometimes when the front three aren’t firing, the Reds can look a look a little bereft of ideas and threat. It’s where players like Ox, Shaqiri, Minamino come into their own – and Gini should be in the bracket, too. He’s far more than people give him credit for, he just needs to show it a little more.