The Premier League transfer window slammed shut last week after a relatively busy summer for Jürgen Klopp’s Reds. The Anfield club added a few high-profile signings to its midfield which had been lacking in depth during the last campaign.
With Fabinho and Naby Keïta both arriving at Melwood in recent weeks, Georginio Wijnaldum has suddenly found himself in a squad with an abundance of central midfielders, all capable of usurping him from his previous, near-guaranteed starting spot.
With Jordan Henderson and Fabinho more than likely fighting it out for the number 6 role, and Liverpool’s Guinean diamond, Naby Keïta, nailed on to be Liverpool’s star man this season, it would appear that Wijnaldum could have his work cut out to force his way into Klopp’s strongest 11. Let’s not forget that a certain James Milner is in the form of his life and put in a scintillating display against West Ham in Liverpool’s 4-0 opening weekend victory.
Since his £25m move to Liverpool in 2016, the Dutchman has featured predominantly in a central role in a midfield 3. However, throughout his career, he has played in a number of different positions. Now, while it is not a myth that the ex-Feyenoord star struggles away from home against some of the lesser teams in England’s top division, with every single one of his 19 Premier League goals being scored at home, be it for Newcastle or Liverpool, he is a player who possesses the ability to find the back of the net.
At Feyenoord, he was deployed further up the pitch as more of a number 10. During his 5-year spell with the Eredivisie outfit, he made 154 appearances, scoring 56 goals and registering 24 assists. Even for a division somewhat smaller than the Premier League, these are extremely positive statistics.
His eye for goal is nothing short of impressive when given the opportunity to venture forward. He demonstrated this attacking prowess as he hit the back of the net 11 times in his debut season for Newcastle United. He was often used as a left-sided attacker under the then Magpies boss Steve McClaren.
Whilst there is no doubt that Nabil Fekir would have been a far better fit in the number 10 role for Liverpool, Wijnaldum’s offensive contributions from his 2014/15 season with Feyenoord are not out of place when compared to those of some truly elite Premier League players. 23-year-old Georginio Wijnaldum completed more take-ons and scored more goals per 90 minutes than the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Christian Eriksen and Mesut Özil did in the league last season.
Yes, I know I have just compared Wijnaldum to some of the best attacking midfielders in recent times, and regardless of the fact that it was in a worse league – no offence to the Eredivisie – he can contribute going forwards for this Liverpool team if required to do so. The skills are transferable. Now, I’m not saying he’ll put in the performances of a Kevin De Bruyne or a Christian Eriksen week in week out, but he does have the ability to be the number 10 that Jürgen Klopp is craving.
It almost raises the question whether Klopp’s knowledge of the Netherlands international’s very apparent versatility was a factor in Liverpool pulling out of the Nabil Fekir deal. While Wijnaldum is no Fekir, he could be of a high enough standard for Jürgen Klopp’s team this season, as Klopp reassesses his targets for the number 10 role which he could potentially readdress next summer.
One thing is for sure, however. In whatever position Georginio Wijnaldum plays for the Merseyside club this season, be it as a number 6, part of a midfield 3, or higher up the pitch as a number 10, he will be an important squad option for the German manager.