Georginio Wijnaldum has proved integral to Klopp’s transformation of this Liverpool side since he arrived in 2016. Our writer Dominic Chandler (@Frankly2Shankly) takes a look at how important the likeable Dutchman has been at Anfield.
Over the past sixteen months, Liverpool have been crowned the European, World and Premier League champions; it’s fair to say that Jürgen Klopp has concocted a recipe for success at Anfield. In the German’s first summer window at the helm, he purchased two of the key ingredients.
Sadio Mané is rightfully lauded as the crucial catalyst for this quest for success. However, another arrival that same summer perhaps doesn’t always get the credit he deserves.
With his future a talking-points this summer, here’s a timely reminder of just how integral Georginio Wijnaldum has been (and still is) to this Liverpool team.
Evolution of the Revolution
In 2016, Jürgen Klopp laid down a marker for how he wanted to develop his side. In attack, Christian Benteke was replaced with the quicker and more versatile Mané; whilst the former Dortmund boss sought to revamp the Reds’ midfield. The able but ill-fitted Allen deemed surplus to requirements, Liverpool targeted someone who would inject real dynamism into the ranks.
When the club turned their attention to Newcastle’s Georginio Wijnaldum, he was something of a left-field selection. As demonstrated in his native Holland, Wijnaldum proved to be an excellent but inconsistent attacking force with the Magpies. However, his new manager had devised a different duty for the Dutchman; along with Adam Lallana, he was cast in a deeper and more disciplined role with the Reds.
Industrious, versatile, and tactically intelligent; the pair proved to be the personification of a Jürgen Klopp outfit.
Between them, they showcased the shape of things to come in his first full season at Anfield.
When fans and pundits discuss Liverpool’s midfield, the focus is usually on Jordan Henderson who has led his side to Premier League glory.
Meanwhile, the excellent Fabinho is regarded as one of the finest holding players in Europe, whilst Naby Keïta received rave reviews upon the Premier League’s resumption in June. Yet Wijnaldum has arguably been the club’s most consistent midfielder over the past few seasons.
Rarely injured, no midfielder at the club has featured more for the side since 2016. Wijnaldum has played 186 games in all competitions for Liverpool in that time – 30 more than his nearest competitor Henderson.
Furthermore, the former Feyenoord star averages 46.5 games per season for Liverpool – more than any other player in his position.
A starter in back-to-back Champions League finals, only van Dijk made more starts in the Premier League winning campaign, too.
The Facts and the Figures
As far as statistics go, Wijnaldum is frequently lambasted for his apparent lack of creativity from the Liverpool midfield. The fact he hasn’t registered a single Premier League assist in the past two terms serving as ammunition for his critics.
However, for anyone accustomed to a Klopp side, they’ll be aware this statistic doesn’t reveal the full picture.
Roberto Firmino is rightfully recognised as the spark that allows our front three to fire on all cylinders.
Yet people are quick to point out that he’s a number nine who has scored over 20 goals in just one of his five seasons in England.
As with the Brazilian and his wingers, Liverpool’s industrious midfield has permitted them to utilities their full backs to devastating effect.
Serving as the creative hub for the champions, Robertson and Alexander-Arnold have provided an impressive 48 Premier League assists between them over the past two seasons.
Only Kevin De Bruyne, one of the best creative players in the world, registered more than Alexander-Arnold (13) and Robertson (12) last term.
That serves testament to how the blueprints for the two top teams in the division differ.
Wijnaldum has been pivotal in a midfield set up to provide space and cover for the flying full backs.
As with Firmino, without that diligence, discipline, and positional sense, it would make such a sharp attacking force comparatively blunt.
As much as Klopp has moulded Wijnaldum into vastly different player to the one we saw for Newcastle, the midfielder still has attacking prowess in his repertoire.
For his national team he’s a regular goal-scorer, bagging eight times for Holland in 2019. That’s as many as he has mustered for his club in the past three league campaigns.
Furthermore, in the two seasons prior to his Anfield arrival, Gini hit double figures for PSV and Newcastle respectively – including scoring four vs Norwich in 2015.
This shows that Klopp has given Wijnaldum specific instructions which he has adapted to and followed impeccably.
That’s not to say that the player hasn’t contributed to Liverpool in terms of goals though.
Who can forget his Barcelona brace last year helped inspire one of the greatest ever European comebacks.
His goal vs Middlesbrough in 2017 was a huge moment, as Liverpool crucially went on to secure Champions League qualification.
As things stand, Wijnaldum is still yet to commit his future to the club beyond 2021. This present Liverpool with a potential conundrum this summer.
On one hand, they will not want to have an Emre Can situation next year, where they lose a valuable asset on a free transfer.
Conversely, there’s no suggestion the player or the club are agitating for an exit ahead, with Wijnaldum still seen as an influential figure in the side.
Links to the world class Thiago Alcântara persist, but it’s difficult to see a move materialising unless there is a departure from Liverpool’s jam-packed midfield.
Wijnaldum’s exit could facilitate Thiago’s arrival, but the departure of such a dependable player isn’t something Liverpool would do lightly.
However, Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano, who provided an update regarding Liverpool’s pursuit of Thiago via Twitter yesterday, has claimed that the club are “still working” on a new deal for Wijnaldum.
Tying Wijnaldum down to a new contract and adding a talent like Thiago would be the best possible outcome for the champions going into next season. There’s sure to be an intriguing few weeks ahead regarding the futures of the midfield duo.
*Poll: What’s the ideal outcome for Liverpool this summer, should Wijnaldum not sign a new contract by then?
Keep Wijnaldum regardless, and sign a replacement next year if he leaves
Sell Wijnaldum this summer and move for Thiago