Liverpool’s midfield is one of functionality rather than a hub of creativity and flair. This is epitomised by the emergence of “The Georginio Wijnaldum Role” on the left side, where the Dutchman has redefined what a world-class midfielder looks like.
The Georginio Wijnaldum Role
Evolution of a Midfielder
Wijnaldum contributed 22 goals and assists in his first two seasons at Anfield, which has dropped to 11 in his last two.
However, this should not be mistaken as a drop off in quality or form. When Wijnaldum arrived in 2016, Jurgen Klopp was still developing his system at the club. Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner offered solidity at full-back, but chance creation had to come through the midfielders. The Reds were often over-zealous in attack during the 2016/17 season, which saw Wijnaldum and Lallana frequently pushing forward to join the front three. This provided many goals and exciting games, but not consistent enough results.
The signing of Andy Robertson and development of Trent Alexander-Arnold has allowed Klopp to utilise his full-backs as the primary chance creators of the team. Only Kevin De Bruyne registered more assists than the duo during the 2019/20 Premier League season as they racked up 25 between them. With defenders advancing higher up the pitch, Liverpool’s midfield has had to become more disciplined. Wijnaldum has proved highly adept at covering the space left by the marauding Robertson when Liverpool are attacking. He has evolved along with the system and is a tireless worker for the team.
A Man for the Big Occasion
Klopp’s Liverpool are no strangers to high-stake games, and Wijnaldum has proved his worth on the biggest stage numerous times. He scored vital goals in his first season to get Liverpool back into the Champions League, as well as providing the decisive finish to send the Reds to the final a year later. Perhaps most famously, he came off the bench to bag two in Liverpool’s 4-0 comeback against Barcelona last season.
This year’s title-winning campaign has been no different. Goals against Sheffield United and West Ham United have been decisive in Liverpool’s historic season, as have many other performances. One of his best displays came in an immense 3-1 win over Manchester City, which moved the Reds eight points clear at the top of the table in November. He showed his strength and underrated technical ability, bullying opposition players in a midfield battle that Liverpool undoubtedly won.
Another fantastic Wijnaldum performance came against Atletico Madrid, in what was nearly another great European night at Anfield. In a game which Liverpool players and fans are still wondering how they lost, the Dutchman was the best outfield performer on the pitch. He showed that he hasn’t lost his end product, scoring the opener and providing the ball which led to the second. While “The Georginio Wijnaldum Role” is to be a controlling presence in midfield, the Dutchman can still provide the goods when his team are chasing goals.
A Leader and Trusted Figure
Wijnaldum showed leadership qualities from a young age and was made captain of PSV at just 22 years old. In 2018, the Liverpool squad voted for him to be vice-captain in the absence of Jordan Henderson and James Milner. He is clearly a well-respected figure in the dressing room and his leadership shows on the pitch too.
The numbers prove that he is amongst the first names on the team sheet. Only four of his team-mates played more than him this season, and no player has made more appearances in Liverpool’s midfield under Klopp.
His versatility has also been a huge asset during his time at the club. He has played in almost every possible outfield position for Liverpool, famously starting as a false nine at the Nou Camp and lining up alongside Dejan Lovren and Emre Can in a makeshift back three against Brighton.
An Uncertain Future
With just one year left on his contract, Wijnaldum is yet to sign an extension with Liverpool. Talks are ongoing but have been for some time now with little sign of a breakthrough.
Should he refuse to extend, Liverpool will have to either sell him this summer or release him next year. With the improvement of Naby Keita and Curtis Jones, Liverpool’s midfield may start to take a new form once more. If so, Wijnaldum’s role could become a thing of the past.
No matter how things unfold, he has been a fantastic player for Liverpool who has adapted over the years. Fabinho is widely appreciated as one of the best holding midfielders around, and Jordan Henderson is finally getting the praise he deserves. However, Georginio Wijnaldum should also be recognised for the world-class ability he brings to Liverpool’s midfield.
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