As the news leaked through on Monday night that Georginio Wijnaldum had limped off from Holland’s defeat to France holding his hamstring, there was a sharp intake of breath around Merseyside (and a smug laughter in Raymond Verheijen’s living room). With the huge Monday night clash with Manchester United on the horizon, the last thing Liverpool wanted was another doubt for the fixture as it is still touch and go as to whether the Standard Chartered Player of the Month, Adam Lallana, will win his fitness race.
Wijnaldum has had a great start to his Liverpool career, featuring in every league game for Jürgen Klopp’s side and has notched up two assists. He has shown his defensive capabilities in a deeper role but also has showcased his flair when going forward and has created 12 chances and boasts an 86% passing accuracy (according to Squaka).
There are many positives for the Reds at the moment compared to previous years, one of these is the squad’s strength in depth. If rumours are to be believed and our flying Dutchman will miss the United match, there are a host of possibilities that Klopp can explore to fill the void left by Gini…
Perhaps the most logical replacement, with the German being a like-for-like swap for the role Wijnaldum has been playing. After making 30 appearances last term, Can has been restricted to just 3 appearances in all competitions this season with his only start coming against Burton Albion in the EFL Cup. Much like Gini, the German international is reliable in his defensive duties but can be a force going forward, with his powerful running style complimenting his impressive skillset, something he combined superbly to assist Daniel Sturridge in the EFL Cup at Southampton last season with a ‘chop’ and an inswinging ball with the outside of the boot. If Emre Can were to get the nod, Klopp could have Sturridge leading the line supported by Coutinho, Firmino and Mané.
As mentioned earlier, Lallana is facing a fitness battle of his own for the match and given Klopp’s previous treatment of players returning from injury, it is unlikely the man in form will start, but expect goals if he does. Having already shown his capability in playing in a deeper role, the former Southampton man can start attacks from deep and cause real problems for opposition midfielders with his relentless pressing from start to finish. A trait he shares with Wijnaldum, who is also an engine in midfield. Questions would be asked, however, of his defensive duties and would also add pressure and responsibility to Jordan Henderson.
Following his Wembley wonder goal, the Serbian has kicked on for the Reds, featuring twice in the Premier League and impressed in his first start against Derby County in the 3-0 win in the EFL Cup. Very similar to Emre Can, Grujic seems to relish his defensive duties and is ample cover at the back but is also powerful going forward and seems direct in his movement and distribution, having already proved he can pick a pass at the right end of the field, with an 84% passing accuracy in the appearances he’s made so far.
With Lucas Leiva, Kevin Stewart and Ovie Ejaria also available, who would you like to see start in Wijnaldum’s position against Manchester United?