One of the biggest criticisms of Georginio Wijnaldum last season was his performances away from home for a struggling Newcastle United side. Although Wijnaldum scored 11 league goals against some top sides in his first season in English football, all of them were scored at home. Against Chelsea on a mild Friday night in West London, the Dutch midfielder played a key role that might be overlooked. Wijnaldum's attacking movement and instincts mean that he will find himself on the scoresheet at some point, but there's more to his game than scoring goals.
Jürgen Klopp isn't that hard to understand in terms of his approach to building teams, and players like Wijnaldum fit in with his tactical tendencies. Verticality, transition, and gegenpressing are all key tactical terms where Wijnaldum's qualities seem to be an ideal match for where Liverpool want to go. That Liverpool are doing exceptionally well in both creating and restricting shooting opportunities is due to a functioning midfield. The former PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord star merits praise in this area as well as Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana.
The 25-year-old won the ball back, stuck to his duties, and helped Liverpool keep possession. What he also displayed was intelligent movement and positioning irrespective of whether the ball was at his feet. To appreciate his performance is to understand that Klopp wants players who will work and function for the team in both attacking and defensive transitions.
When Liverpool lose the ball, what does Klopp want his players to do? When Liverpool retrieve the ball, what does Klopp want his players to do? How do Liverpool move from losing the ball to winning it back and from winning it back to keeping it? Wijnaldum's performance held some of the answers to these key questions.