In an interview before the Netherlands’ UEFA Nations League final against Portugal, Liverpool midfielder Gini Wijnaldum made an admission that could well help solve some of the few gaps remaining in Jurgen Klopp’s squad.
When asked if he feels more comfortable in Klopp’s system or Ronald Koeman’s, the former Newcastle man said: “Both, but, I like to attack.
“I think every player likes to attack if they can attack. I prefer to play as a No.10, but I’m also comfortable in the role where I play at Liverpool. So, it just depends where the team needs me, where the manager needs me.
“But, since I’m young I prefer to play higher on the pitch and I’m happy that I can do it for the national team.”
You can relive Liverpool’s Champions League celebrations in glorious 2D thanks to the guys at 442oons in the video below…
Before arriving at Liverpool and being turned into an out-and-out centre midfielder, Wijnaldum was more of a No. 10 at PSV Eindhoven and then Newcastle, where he netted 14 Eredivisie goals before notching 11 in 38 league games for the Magpies – he even hit four in one game against Norwich in October 2015 and two against the Reds in December 2015.
He has proven that he can be an effective source of creativity in the No.10 position behind the striker, a type that the Reds have definitely been missing since the departure of Philippe Coutinho back in 2018 – their midfield nowadays is filled with workmanlike types such as Fabinho, James Milner and Jordan Henderson. Xherdan Shaqiri is perhaps the only exception but has found himself used sparingly by Klopp.
Wijnaldum isn’t a certified starter in Klopp’s midfield three anyway, finding himself left on the bench in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, whilst the topic of whether he or Milner should start in the final was the only question mark over the German’s team selection.
By moving the 54-cap midfielder further up into a No.10 position, this would also make Klopp’s life simpler in terms of team selection and give the Dutchman his wish of playing in a more advanced role.
But the 28-year-old was also entrusted by Klopp to play in Roberto Firmino’s position as a false 9 against Barcelona in the first leg of the semi-finals and played extremely well, helping link the play in the first leg before notching a double in the second leg.
He would be a very capable like-for-like back-up for Firmino, something Liverpool also lack, due to the fact he is tenacious and somewhat defensively minded whilst possessing attacking traits. The fundamental job of Liverpool’s front-man is to play through Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah – albeit lacking a little physicality, Wijnaldum certainly has the technical ability and vision to do just that.
The Dutchman’s excellent versatility and tactical flexibility makes him a great player for Liverpool to have in their armoury and one that can solve two of the biggest problems Klopp’s squad currently faces in terms of personnel.