In the opening weeks of the campaign, Liverpool’s midfield maestro Georgino Wijnaldum has come in for criticism. Last season he was consistently one of the Reds’ best performers, but in 2017/18, he had got off to a slow start. At times, he had even been accused of being a passenger in midfield.
Against Arsenal, Wijnaldum produced one of his best performances in a Liverpool shirt. The Dutchman spent much of the game breaking ankles, sending both Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka sprawling on the floor in a dizzy heap as he wandered past. His neat footwork was just too much for the Gunners to handle.
His vision was key too. With 88.1% pass completion ratio, Wijnaldum was key in the transition between attack and defence and in particular as the home side looked to counter-attack with pace and speed. His vision and ability to play long balls was crucial in picking out the intelligent and pacey runs of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. That was shown in his pass accuracy with his long balls too at 100%, something that even the best passers often struggle to do.
When not on the counter, Wijnaldum offered a different kind of option. He looked to keep the ball at his feet and dash through the middle of the park, with his pace and power shrugging off challenges. With eight dribbles, he recorded an impressive stat that wouldn’t look out of place alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Now, the challenge for Wijnaldum will be to maintain that form going forwards. He has often turned up for the toughest ties against the highest profile of opposition, his goalscoring record speaks to that, but has occasionally struggled to produce his best form against inferior opposition. With Manchester City and Sevilla up next, he shouldn’t have any problems, but he must maintain this form against the likes of Burnley and Leicester after that.