As Liverpool have set up in attack this season, the idea of defined positions has become increasingly vague. The goal has been movement, interchanging, and fluidity, often built around a non-traditional striker who likes to get as involved in swapping positions as the rest of the attacking players.
For the players, it means fewer defined jobs and an increased focus on situational awareness and what their teammates are doing. It’s a change that new signing Gini Wijnaldum says he’s still working on, as in the past he knew he only ever had one job to do when his team got the ball—run forward.
"He doesn’t really give a lot of jobs to players,” said the midfielder, who signed from Newcastle over the summer in a £25M deal. “He tells me to be free and play how I can play. But sometimes it is different. It depends on what the other players are doing. You have to look at the other players.
"Sometimes I have to get used to it because, normally, I’m the one who goes all the time. Now, I have to also look at the other players. That’s the thing that has changed the most in my way of football—that I have to look more at the other players."
So far, Wijnaldum’s adjustment has largely gone well, with the player’s ability to find and move into space reliably offering a valuable passing option for teammates in the buildup and pulling defenders out of position as Liverpool move into the final third.
It’s a game less about driving forward than it was at Newcaslte and more about moving into the holes created by his teammates and then moving to create further openings for them. Now all he’s waiting on is a few goals—something he’s tended to get a lot of in his career.
In five of the last six seasons, with Feyenoord, PSV, and Newcaslte, Wijnaldum has ended the season with a double-digit goal tally—on average, since his first season as a regular contributor with Feyenoord in 2008-09, Wijnaldum has scored a goal once in every 3.4 appearances.
"It always takes me time but it has gone well so far,” Wijnaldum added, before noting that he still thinks things can go better, something that for a player like him includes scoring goals. “Everyone is trying to help me. Everyone here is doing their best to give me a good feeling and it gives me a good feeling.
“Step-by-step, I will have the best feeling. It must be better and I know I can be better, because I can show a lot more than I already showed. Unfortunately, sometimes it will take time. That’s how it is and that’s why I have confidence and faith in my qualities—it will come.”