It’s been a bit of a strange season for Gini Wijnaldum. After positive signs from his first year at Anfield, this season has seen the Dutchman in and out of the side, with James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain having currently established themselves as the first choice players in the slightly more advanced midfield roles.
But crisis leads to opportunity and with both Emre Can and Jordan Henderson unavailable against Man City on Tuesday, it has fallen to Wijnaldum to take up the deeper “six” role. It is not one that he is totally unfamiliar with, having spent a lot of time during preseason practicing the position, and adopting it against Everton at the weekend. This will be a different level of test entirely, but it’s one that he feels he is ready for.
“The manager was trying it in pre-season and he said it might happen in the season”, Gini Wijnaldum told the Liverpool Echo, adding that Jürgen Klopp “said at that time that it could happen that I will play in that position and he might look to do it in the future”.
“Now that time has come”.
The Liverpool manager also indicated that he sees no issue with the Dutch midfielder taking up the role, calling Wijnaldum “a brilliant player”, and adding that he “is really physically strong and so [the number six role] is a really good position for him”.
“He is creative, he is good with the ball, he can pick the pass, he’s good with that stuff, he has a good view of the play (and how it unfolds) it is all there that you need. He can jump to the roof!”
Yet more praise came from Jordan Henderson, with Wijnaldum described as “brilliant in that position against Everton” by the Liverpool captain. “He got on the ball and kept moving it. He showed he can play there. Hopefully he can do the same job for us again on Tuesday night”, Henderson added.
While 3-0 is a strong lead, it seems likely that Liverpool will have a lot of defending to do at the Etihad this week, with Man City sure to attempt everything to get through. It will be a big task for Wijnaldum to control the midfield and protect the back four, but signs are positive that he can step up to the plate.