In a somewhat unusual move for the German manager, Jürgen Klopp has started this season by playing the exact same starting XI in all three opening matches. While the choices in defense and attack were expected, the midfield is what has got people debating.
Klopp has the very good problem of plenty of depth in the midfield to choose from, and yet despite that, he’s chosen to go with Naby Keïta, James Milner, and Gini Wijnaldum — a decision which has helped contribute to a flawless start from the Reds. This has led to players such as Jordan Henderson and new addition Fabinho not quite making the cut. It’s early days yet, of course, and there’s plenty of football still to play, but it’s fascinating to hear Klopp’s thoughts on these selections.
Accordingly, Klopp talked about why he picked Wijnaldum and why he rates him so highly.
“Gini can switch from one mindset to the other and that is pretty good for us,” he said.
“If you ask me he was brilliant in pre-season as the eight. He was good as the six but brilliant as the eight. That’s why we never had any doubts about him. He can play both.
“It was always clear he would be in the mix for the six position. He has worked hard and plays it very well. He’s a good footballer, but it is important that you have the kind of mindset that you can cool yourself down in different situations.
“(In that role) it’s important you don’t follow the ball or offer runs in behind when we have enough players to do that. We need a few reasonable persons on the pitch, if you want, and Gini has shown he can switch between both.”
Klopp is a manager who clearly values versatility in his players — just ask James Milner. Wijnaldum, who put in a man of the match performance against Brighton, has worked hard to prove to Klopp that he could provide assistance to the team in several different roles on the pitch.
It’s also exciting to hear that Klopp prefers Wijnaldum as the number eight, a position where the young Dutchman excelled every time he has been given the opportunity to play there.
Klopp faces his next big decision this Saturday when the Reds travel to Leicester for the early kick-off. While it’s not confirmed that Wijnaldum will once again retain his place, no one is likely to argue that he’s earned it after his three previous performances.