Keita struggles, Thiago contrast: Why Liverpool will miss Wijnaldum

James Shearman
  • Updated: 19 May 2021 15:43 BST
  • 2 min read
Keita struggles, Thiago contrast: Why Liverpool will miss Wijnaldum

Jurgen Klopp’s engine room would be dealt a significant blow this summer were Georginio Wijnaldum to opt to leave Liverpool.

Wijnaldum has been a key figure for the Reds as they have returned to the pinnacle of European football by lifting the Champions League and Premier League in successive years.

And, while Klopp’s squad is packed with international stars, it would be difficult for him to recover from losing his reliable No.5.

Having starred as a late-arriving midfielder goalscorer at Newcastle, Wijnaldum has starred in a more workmanlike central unit since arriving at Anfield in a £23m deal.

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His prospective departure is likely to open up further opportunities for Naby Keita and Thiago Alcantara, though it remains to be seen if either is a good fit for that role.

Both provide numerous qualities that most teams would be thrilled to have, but their greater involvement could spell the end of the heavy metal football era.

The end of heavy metal football?

First of all, Keita has been plagued by injuries since his arrival, something that has unfortunately shown no signs of slowing down.

The Guinea international has managed just 31 Premier League starts in his three seasons at the club, fewer than Wijnaldum last season alone.

The 25-year-old offers a penetrative dribbling ability, averaging 2.2 dribbles p90 in the league last season, a figure higher than any of his teammates in midfield.

This is a handy solution to breaking down opposition’s deep defensive lines, an asset which Liverpool would no doubt like to explore, but the question of availability is too much of a concern to set aside.

Thiago contrast

Of course, Thiago has also had his own injury worries since arriving over the summer, though he perhaps deserves some slack given his obvious pedigree as a serial title-winner and European champion.

Instead, the biggest issue with Thiago is perhaps that he plays the game completely differently to Wijnaldum.

Majestic in close control and ‘eye of a needle’ passing, the 30-year-old is a pleasure to watch, but that is not what Liverpool have been about in recent years.

If you wanted classy possession-based football, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have been the team to watch for a number of years. Rather, Anfield has been the racecourse for the elegant, yet ferociously powerful thoroughbreds.

Thiago will not adapt at his age and with the success in the game he has enjoyed thus far, leaving Klopp no choice but to adapt his own methods.

The Reds may choose to slow things down and opt for a more methodical approach, or they will risk a conflict of styles in the heart of Klopp’s well-oiled machine.

The pace and power of the opposition was never a concern with Wijnaldum in the middle, particularly in games where he and Henderson were able to be paired together.

Unfortunately for Klopp, as he nervously awaits news on the Dutchman’s future, he must accept that may not be the case for much longer.