Gini Wijnaldum is Football player, #5 for Liverpool FC .
It is his first season at Liverpool, and the progressive, link-up midfielder is producing decent output in front of goal. By the end of the campaign, he has taken 1.81 shots per 90 minutes and made 1.30 key passes; his xGA per 90 is at 0.33, a number which puts him as the club’s joint-most creative midfielder. He also has directly contributed to 15 goals.
If this was the end-of-term card for Naby Keita after the 2018/19 campaign, Liverpool could consider this the sort of 12 months you can be fully pleased with. The problem is these numbers do not relate to Keita’s first year at Anfield. They tell the story of Gini Wijnaldum in 2016/17.
A lot has also been theorised about why this is. Jurgen Klopp wants his midfield to perform a particular function, to offer a platform for others to play. This season, Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson have covered a lot of the turf, plugging spaces and keeping the structure. It means the club’s two predominant no.8s in the 4-3-3 sit 12th (Henderson) and 13th (Wijnaldum) in terms of key passes per 90 minutes, with the Dutchman hitting a remarkable career-low of 0.18, pretty much level with Virgil van Dijk. Wijnaldum’s shots per 90 is still better than others (including Henderson and Fabinho) on 1.43, but his xGA per 90 sits at just 0.07, the lowest of any midfielder or forward with substantial minutes this season.
This may or may not be who Wijnaldum is, but it certainly is not who he was. His function in this Liverpool team is now different, with the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the aforementioned Keita now considered the more attacking options at Klopp’s disposal.