Many Liverpool fans were pleased by the club’s signing of Georginio Wijnaldum, a versatile, pacy, tactically astute midfield signing and a player who promised to add goals to the side following a season when he scored 11 goals from midfield for a struggling and since relegated Newcastle United.
Add in a £25M price tag in an increasingly inflated transfer market, and it was hard not to be impressed by the numbers and the talent the 25-year-old would be bringing to Anfield. Yet there were doubts about just where he would fit in. Doubts that persists and that are shared by ex-Red legend Jamie Carragher.
“I like Wijnaldum, but I’m not quite sure where his best position is or where he will fit in,” said Carragher on Sky as the pundit previewed the upcoming season. “It looks like he will play tucked in on the left if Liverpool play a three-man midfield—but if they don’t then I struggle to see where he will fit in.”
Jürgen Klopp favoured the 4-2-3-1 at Mainz and Dortmund. He favoured it last season at Liverpool. While there will be times he runs out a three-man midfield—he’s shown a fondness for it with Roberto Firmino leading the line in pre-season—it seems a stretch to suggest it will suddenly be his favoured approach.
And in any other formation, Wijnaldum doesn’t seem the obvious first choice. In a double-pivot, it’s difficult to look past the default pairing of Emre Can and Jordan Henderson. In the attacking support band, there’s Sadio Mané and Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana along with Firmino to compete with.
Winjnaldum might, by the end of the year, have passed any or all on the depth chart, but at least at the start of the season, when Liverpool run out the 4-2-3-1 it’s hard to see where Wijnaldum fits. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of quality depth—something the Reds could use elsewhere on the pitch.
“James Milner has a good understanding of the game and great fitness levels, but of course Liverpool need to sign a left back,” Carragher added, moving from Liverpool’s areas of depth to their most lacking. “They have sold Brad Smith to Bournemouth and you need two players for every position.
“They need someone else alongside Alberto Moreno. Milner did a good job against Barcelona, but you certainly wouldn’t go into the season without one more recognised left back.”