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Wijnaldum on playing in defense: “It was difficult”

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The Liverpool midfielder was deputized as a defender against Brighton

Sevilla FC v Liverpool FC - UEFA Champions League Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Liverpool secured a confident 5-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday. But the scoreline arguably flattered the Reds, who, for significant stretches of time in both halves, appeared to struggle to keep their hosts out of Simon Mignolet’s goal. At 3-1 late in the second half there were still plenty of doubts, worries that this could all end in a draw. Or worse.

The uncertainty began an hour before kickoff when the teamsheet was released and fans began to divine Jurgen Klopp’s setup. Once the game began, Klopp’s “experimental” formation was brought into focus, featuring two central midfielders— Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum— being redeployed as makeshift central defenders, each one flanking Dejan Lovren. At the risk of sounding alarmist, this could very well have proven to be a disaster.

But Klopp was left with little choice. As he told reporters after the game, he didn’t know he would have to set up the team this way until Friday, and suggested that even he wasn’t sure this would work out.

But perhaps no one was as surprised by this setup than Gini, who, by his own admission after the game, had never played in defense before.

"It was difficult, especially the first half because I have never played there, but the manager was running out of options with players who were sick. So Emre and I we had to play there. For Emre it wasn't that different because he has played there before, but for me it was difficult because you need to know when to close spaces. The first half was really difficult, but the second half was good.”

Gini continued:

"We were training a day before the game, [Klopp] didn't tell me, he just picked the team and he told me I was at the back. He picked the first XI and told I me I was at the back. Normally I am a player who can play in different positions, but never in defence. The manager was running out of options and he picked me and Emre. It was really hard in the first because I didn't know what to do every time.”

Oof.

But hey, everything worked out. Huzzah!