Questions were asked of Liverpool’s hierarchy following their decision not to renew Gini Wijnaldum’s contract at the end of last season.
The Dutchman had been an influential squad member at Anfield since signing in 2016, and he made it clear that he wanted to extend his stay at the club for more years to come.
Jurgen Klopp also didn’t want to lose the midfielder, he was after all an ever-present in his squad right up until even last season. He missed just one matchday squad across the whole of the last campaign, and that was at Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup.
Yet an agreement between club and player was never struck, allowing him to sign for Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent in the summer.
Although Liverpool faced initial criticism for their decision, it’s not yet proved to be a move that’s come back to bite them.
Whilst admittedly still early into the new campaign, it’s striking that Wijnaldum has so far struggled to forge himself a role within Mauricio Pochettino’s starting 11.
From a possible 12 fixtures, he’s played just three full 90-minute matches and has instead been forced to settle for brief cameo appearances off the bench late in the second half.
And speaking to NOS in his homeland during the international break, Wijnaldum admitted it’s been far from perfect since his departure from Liverpool.
“I can’t say I’m completely happy,” Wijnaldum said. “Because the situation is not what I wanted. I think [not playing], it’s a primary concern for every player.”
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His biggest issue has been an inability to dislodge midfielders such as Ander Herrera, Idrissa Gueye and Danilo Pereira, each of whom have been preferred in the No.8 roles within Pochettino’s system.
He like Klopp at Liverpool tends to favour a 4-3-3 formation, meaning Wijnaldum’s transition into the team should have been, on paper at least, fairly seamless.
Yet it’s possibly his conservative approach to play in possession that’s hindered him in Ligue 1 so far.
At Liverpool, he was not a headliner grabber in terms of goals or assists, but this was fine. His mobility, press resistance and ability to keep play ticking over with short sharp passes was ideal for what Klopp wanted.
Yet in PSG’s system, midfielders are required to provide more.
Strikingly in terms of progressive passes last season, Wijnaldum’s average yardage progressed towards the opposition’s goal of 165.9 per 90 looks pretty underwhelming when compared to that of the averages posted by Gueye (383.1) and Herrera (331.6).
Whilst he’ll be forever admired at Anfield, there’s even a case to be made that his departure in the summer opened the door for the timely evolution of the No.8 roles at Liverpool.
Klopp started the season with the more attack-minded Harvey Elliot in his midfield, and he was fast becoming a key player prior to his injury away at Leeds United, though Curtis Jones, a similar profile of player, has in many ways stepped up in the 18-year-old’s absence.
These two players arguably represent the new era of No.8’s at the club, with more conservative players such as Wijnaldum perhaps having gone on to be less useful had he stayed, at least in comparison to seasons gone by.
This could have been one of the reasons why Liverpool’s analytics department and key decision-makers didn’t deem the midfielder worthy of a new bumper deal.
Reds fans will continue to wish the Dutchman well, and most likely will be pleased if he can turn his fortunes around in the French capital, however his struggles so far perhaps add some justification to Liverpool’s decision to let him leave in the summer just gone.
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