Wijnaldum was enjoying a fantastic start to his Liverpool career, following a £25million move from Newcastle United during the summer, until he suffered a hamstring injury whilst on international duty with the Netherlands.
That saw the 25-year-old sidelined for the Reds’ Premier League clash with Manchester United on Monday night, his first absence from the starting line-up thus far this term, but he was back in training at Melwood on Wednesday.
Mirror Football claim Wijnaldum should be ‘back in the side’ for the Baggies’ visit his weekend, although it’s not clear whether the British newspaper are alluding to a starting role or a spot on the bench.
Most definitely. Wijnaldum’s form hasn’t exactly been award-winning this season but he’s quietly gone about his business, keeping the engine room ticking over and unleashing Liverpool’s forward line with direct passes on the counter-attack.
Perhaps most importantly, however, the Dutchman’s absence along with Adam Lallana severely impacted the way Liverpool played. They couldn’t press with their usual energy and mobility and Klopp even felt compelled to change formation to a 4-2-3-1. Inevitably, the Reds’ performance suffered in what proved to be a very forgettable Northwest derby.
Here’s a look at how his form has compared to Liverpool’s other midfield options this season, courtesy of Squawka, in terms of per-game metrics.
Bearing the above in mind, it’s more than likely West Brom will employ similar tactics to Jose Mourinho’s United in attempting to suffocate Liverpool’s attacking flair and scintillating pace on the break – especially at Anfield. Indeed, Tony Pulis has some history when it comes to frustrating a point or three out of the Reds and will have a similar game-plan in store for Saturday.
Thus, having Wijnaldum back in the team, pulling the strings, setting up counters and joining in the pressing game, should see Liverpool produce the kind of performance we’ve become accustomed to, rather than their tepid display against Manchester United. That being said, having Lallana back in the starting XI is equally important – although that seems more than likely after he entered the fray from the bench against the Red Devils.