Marko Grujic has become a rather forgotten man at Liverpool. Since being signed from Red Star Belgrade for £5.1 million, he has been a constant part of loan spells away from Anfield. But he has been using them well and the time could be right for him to finally break into the first-team under Jurgen Klopp.
Currently, Grujic has been in a Hertha Berlin side that has struggled for stability. Currently just six points clear from relegation, they’ve had three different managers in the season. Leading online bookmaker bettingsites.ng are tipping Hertha to stay up, but there is good value in backing their relegation given their form before the league was suspended. In 22 appearances in all competitions though, Grujic has contributed to five goals. While that is low, goals don’t really matter if a player is a Liverpool midfielder.
Grujic has been one of the better players this season for Hertha. The club has played a host of formations in the season. From the 3-4-1-2, 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2, everything has been done. On a regular basis, he’s played in a box-to-box role or often as the defensive midfielder. That is one reason why his output numbers aren’t too high.
This season, the Serbian has won 5.47 aerial duels per 90 minutes. It has become a key part of his armoury, as Grujic wins 66.3 percent of his aerial duels. He is a sound tackler, as he wins 1.52 tackles per 90 and makes 5.36 recoveries per 90 minutes too. It shows that he is made for off-the-ball work and does well to live up to the task in that regard.
On the ball, he isn’t the most creative outlet. He plays only 0.05 through balls per 90 minutes and creates less than one chance per game on average. He completes only 1.4 dribbles per 90 minutes and that isn’t a huge number.
All that gives the perfect impression of him being a player who will fit right into the Liverpool system. Jurgen Klopp’s side thrives on keeping the midfield solid. The likes of Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Fabinho and the likes play sideways passes and set the full-backs in Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold through. They aren’t expansive and do the simple passing.
That is what Grujic does too. Only 33 percent of his passes are forward passes. 27 percent of them go towards the right, with 25 percent going towards the left. He plays a total of 31.4 short passes per game and keeping play ticking is a strength of his.
He, of course, isn’t the perfect player yet. But he is only 23 and will only improve. Former Hertha manager Pal Dardai knew of his strengths and potential.
Last year, he said: “He’s got so much potential, and you can see that out on the pitch. He’s so robust in the middle of the park, but he can still play. He’s good in the air, he wins tackles and has got such a strong desire to win. I can only say: ‘respect’. And he’s not even fully fit. Just imagine what he’ll be like when he is!”
That is very much the sort of player Klopp loves in the current midfield setup. The manner in which Naby Keita is being sidelined shows that. The former RB Leipzig man is more expansive in his approach. He likes to get on the ball and dribble forward. He sets up the strikers and doesn’t keep the passing simple by playing it wide. Grujic does the opposite.
While no one knows what Keita has left at Liverpool. But Grujic ‘s versatility and strength in midfield fits right into that team. Gini Wijnaldum’s contract runs out at the end of next season and that could be one place where Grujic can come in. If Keita does leave, Grujic can still make an impact in midfield.
The possibilities are endless. Liverpool have a suitable player on their hands. It is about unleashing him at the right time.