Just before we signed Gini Wijnaldum from Newcastle last summer, we interviewed Newcastle Chronicle journalist Lee Ryder about the Dutchman’s debut campaign and what we were likely to expect.
We were about to clinch a £25m deal, but hadn’t seen much of the attacking midfielder bar Match of the Day highlights in which he looked a world-beater.
For the Toon, Wijnaldum played as an attacking midfielder on either flank or occasionally as an orthodox no.10. Jurgen Klopp changed his role and moved him back into a central box-to-box role with more defensive responsibility, but some of what Ryder told us in summer rings true.
Here’s what he had to say back then…
“Let’s get this straight, Gini Wijnaldum is a fine technical footballer on his day and he can be a match winner when he is in the mood,” he began.
“He started off quite well last season after making a £14.5million move from PSV Eindhoven to Tyneside.
“But with the team being in a poor state after some bad moves in the summer window, Wijnaldum was expected to lead the charge for survival.
“He did so at first and when he bagged four goals against Norwich, United fans thought they had a real star on their hands.
“As Liverpool fans will know, he also done it against the Reds with a brace in a 2-0 at St James’ Park.
“Sadly that was as good as it got.
“He didn’t perform well in the second half of the season and he was very poor away from home.
“It was as if he could not take on all the responsibility of carrying the team by himself and disappeared when Newcastle needed him the most.
“That’s not a slight on him it’s just there weren’t enough good players around him.
“Although, some Newcastle fans do think that the lack of contribution from Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko, the club’s most talented players, was a huge factor in going down.
“Things got very bad for Wijnaldum at one point when Steve McClaren considered relegating him to the reserves shortly before being sacked.
“And Liverpool fans should know that even Rafa Benitez could not coax a performance out of him during his early games in charge before he consequently dropped Wijnaldum.
“His two goals against Spurs on the last day of the season took his tally to a flattering 11 goals for the campaign.
“It was a taste of what Wijnaldum can do when the pressure is off.
“Given Liverpool have a lot of talent to put around him that might work in Wijnaldum’s favour.
“Gini is a good player but has a lot to learn about the Premier League.”
For Liverpool, Wijnaldum’s scored four goals, all at Anfield, which means his 15 Premier League efforts have all come at his home ground.
He’s proven to be a match-winner, like against Manchester City, or Arsenal on Saturday – but has undeniably been a culprit of going missing against smaller, less glamorous sides – as have the majority of his team-mates in fairness.
What Wijnaldum is though is very capable of putting in Man of the Match performances, but ruins this with inconsistency and a habit of performing worse away from Anfield.
Earlier this campaign, he was phenomenal at Stamford Bridge, but he’s struggled on the road more than he hasn’t.
For Wijnaldum to move onto the next level and be considered one of the best central midfielders in the country, his base level needs to improve. This means when he’s not playing brilliantly, he still needs to control games in the middle and put in a 7/10 performance.
If he can find this kind of consistency, we’ve a long-term option on our hands for central midfield.