Cody Gakpo arrived at Liverpool at the start of January, joining a struggling and out of form side while trying to take a step up a level from the Dutch Eredivisie to the Premier League and also often being asked to take on a largely unfamiliar role as a false nine.
To say he hasn’t made much of an impact so far would be fair. But then it’s also fair to point out that he hasn’t been put in a position to succeed. All of which has Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman wondering if it was the right move at the right time for the player.
“He has ended up in a team that is not doing well,” Koeman said. “If you don’t score or you’re not important and don’t win any matches it’s very difficult, especially for a young player. If that was someone aged 28, with experience, it would be different.”
Gakpo, who stands at 1.93m and is taller than Darwin Nuñez, may look like the sort of player one would want in the middle of the attack as a potential target man, but his numbers in the Netherlands point to a player whose heading is the weakest part of his game.
At the same time, his numbers before Liverpool showed that chance creation via crossing the ball was one of the strongest parts of his game. It’s been confounding, then, to see him often play through the middle while Nuñez—a true aerial threat—goes wide left.
Since his debut against Wolves in a 2-2 FA Cup draw on January 7th, Liverpool have recorded three losses, two draws, and one win—with the win in their FA Cup replay against Wolves. Meanwhile, they have scored just one goal in four Premier League games.
It can’t be an easy situation for Gakpo, and with the help of hindsight it’s hard to point a finger anywhere but towards Liverpool’s coaching staff led by manager Jürgen Klopp for how they have chosen to deploy the promising but still raw young attacker.
“The level in England is higher than in the Netherlands,” Koeman said in an appearance on Dutch interview series Bij Andy in de Auto. “But they are also young boys, aren’t they? Like [Ryan] Gravenberch going to Bayern and not playing. Then that is difficult.”