By Connor Varnish – @cvarn4
Last season Liverpool’s midfield three of Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and Georginio Wijnaldum took us as far as they possibly could have over such a demanding season both domestically and abroad.
With the signings of Naby Keita and Fabinho, we all knew some changes were imminent, but who would make way for the new boys? You certainly can’t drop the captain, can you? You can’t drop the man coming off recording the most assists ever in a Champions League campaign, right? It looked as though Georginio Wijnaldum might be the odd man out.
Rumblings in the summer may have linked Gini away from the club after allegedly being “unhappy” with falling behind the pecking order to Nab and Fab – but it didn’t take too long for the Dutchman to rubbish such rumours this season. Gini has undoubtedly been the ung hero of the midfield thus far.
Our midfield trio, for the most part has been the most inconsistent area in our team this year in terms of game- to- game personnel. With Hendo slowly working his way back to full fitness, Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain out for the season, Milner and Keita battling respective hamstring issues, and Fabinho slowly bedding into the side, the only main stay has been the Dutch playmaker, Gini Wijnaldum.
One could argue these injuries and exclusions in the midfield have made it tough on both the back line and front three of Liverpool – perhaps this was an underlying issue to our early season attacking woes? When fully fit and firing, it’s still tough to say who our best midfield three are moving forward
We can safely assume for the most part that Bobby, Mane, and Salah shape up the attack, while Robbo, van Dijk, Gomez, and Trent generally complete the back line – yet there’s still lingering questions about what combination offers us the most balance on both sides of the ball in the middle of the pitch.
While this midfield inquiry has lasted all season, Gini Wijnaldum has certainly been one who has consistently answered the call. Particularly Wijnaldum’s performances in the No. 6 role have been impressive – it seems as if he never loses possession, and when he is put under pressure he always finds a way to shield the ball and find an open passing lane to keep the game progressing.
Interestingly enough, against Cardiff at Anfield, Gini completed 111 passes while the Bluebirds as a team completed just one more with 112 – gone are the days Gini goes underappreciated and unnoticed – this man is making a strong case for himself to cement a spot in the midfield for good.
Gini’s importance to this squad is paramount. He offers so much in defense and attack that it would be foolish to consider dropping him at this rate when our other squad members become available.
One could very easily argue that he’s been the best midfielder for us this season based on his consistency alone – you can always count on Wijnaldum to give you maximum effort coupled with a good, solid performance.
Perhaps Gini’s biggest criticism has been that he isn’t too fond of scoring away goals, but that’s not something I’d be too worried about when judging the Dutch international. Gini shows up when it counts, and has found a way to score in some of the biggest games – he’s scored against Chelsea, City, Spurs, Arsenal, and perhaps his most notable contribution against Roma in the Champions League semi final.
Even more so, Wijnaldum’s one of the most versatile players at Klopp’s disposal. We’ve seen him do a job in the box –to- box role for Liverpool, and we’ve also seen him thrive in the No. 10 role, as well as the left wing for Holland and Newcastle respectively.
Jurgen must absolutely love having a player like Gini with so much utility in his side, and it’s unquestionably paid off so far this year.
Although reports over the past summer linked Wijnaldum with a “shock” move away from the Reds, Gini responded by putting his head down and delivering on the pitch – and it looks like his teammates are repaying that faith as well. Gini was voted 4th team captain behind fellow Dutchman Virgil van Dijk last week, no small feat.
Gini has won the respect of his peers and is playing with all the confidence in the world with every Liverpool fan behind him. Our unsung hero deserves more credit, and as the season progresses I believe he will get his fair dues.