How could Liverpool adapt without Georgino Wijnaldum ahead of Manchester United clash?
There was a major injury scare for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool in the international break as Georgino Wijnaldum limped off the field in Holland’s clash against France with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Whilst the extent of his injury is not yet known, his substitution makes him a doubt for Monday night’s clash against Manchester United in one of the season’s most exciting games of the season to date.
The Dutch midfielder has missed just 21 minutes of Premier League football to date this season, starting in every league game for Jurgen Klopp. In his new midfield role, playing in a deeper lying position than he was previously accustomed to with PSV and Newcastle, the 25-year-old has been quietly effective. Whilst he may not have attracted the plaudits that the likes of Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana have in the opening months of the campaign, he has been just effective. Despite not yet having found the net for the first time in Liverpool colours, he has registered assists in fixtures against Arsenal and Leicester City.
The £25 million signing has also shown huge improvements in the defensive side of his game. Usually played partnering Jordan Henderson just behind the more attacking Lallana, Wijnaldum has more defensive responsibilities than ever before in his career and something which came as somewhat of a surprise for many who had followed him at PSV and Newcastle, where he failed to contribute defensively and was often poor in doing so. However, under Klopp he has more than held his own and is currently holding German midfielder Emre Can out of the team.
Can is now fit after an ankle injury kept him out for a number of weeks and will be looking to take advantage of Wijnaldum’s potential absence, particularly after impressing in a behind closed doors friendly against Bradford City at Melwood whilst much of the squad are away on international duty. The 22-year-old will add more defensive bite to the Liverpool midfield and Jurgen Klopp will hope that his introduction will help the Reds to earn their first clean sheet of the Premier League season to date.
What Can may struggle to offer that Wijnaldum does so effectively is the driving runs forward from deeper positions, often arriving on the edge of the box at the perfect time for a cut-back to allow him to shoot or pass again. What seems most likely is that Can’s introduction will allow Jordan Henderson more freedom to roam forwards despite his effective performances in a deeper role, but Henderson lacks the cutting edge of Wijnaldum and will have to adapt his game.
Whilst Wijnaldum’s absence is a blow, particularly ahead of one of the biggest fixtures of the season, the Reds have capable cover in their squad. The worry will be that if Adam Lallana fails to recover from a groin injury picked up at Swansea, with Wijnaldum also out then there may have to be a slight change of system to account for his absence. Klopp will relish the arrival of the Red Devils on Monday, but it seems increasingly likely that he will be glad the fixture was selected for Monday night to give his two midfield stars an extra 48 hours recovery time.
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