Former Liverpool striker Neil Mellor is now a pundit we rate highly and he’s offered some smart analysis on Dutchman Gini Wijnaldum in his Echo column.
The 26-year-old midfielder was phenomenal last time out against Spurs and Mellor reckons his offensive contribution is actually understated – although he’s only registered a modest three goals and four assists so far.
For Newcastle, Wijnaldum was a lung-busting attacking midfielder, given very little defensive responsibility and he reached double figures for goals as a result. Under Jurgen Klopp, he’s more controlled and disciplined, charged with transitioning our play from defence to attack, but Mellor suggests his positivity enables skipper Jordan Henderson to sit back and dictate rather than try and create.
This is an interesting tactical point, as with Emre Can in Wijnaldum’s place, we do seem to lack something in the middle of the park – and perhaps it’s because Henderson is stepping forward and trying too hard to make things happen.
Here’s the part of Mellor’s column we most liked:
We created plenty of chances in that first half and Sadio Mane was really influential, but Gini Wijnaldum was absolutely superb, wasn’t he?
He brought energy and purpose to the midfield, and it freed up Jordan Henderson to sit a little deeper in the midfield. Bringing him back into the fold was a good decision.
I feel he’s gone under the radar a little for his contribution this season. At the start of the season, the front three claimed plenty of plaudits; then, Adam Lallana and Joel Matip received praise. But Wijnaldum is an important part to how we play as an attacking force.
He played further forward for Newcastle don’t forget, and because of the way we play, he has that freedom to go forward here as well. He can get more goals, most definitely, but in general his presence is a real positive, dragging away defenders in the box and creating space for others.
The midfield trio of him, Henderson and Lallana are a great sight when firing.
Mellow’s final sentence hits the nail on the head. It’s this three that give us the best chance of success throughout the remainder of this season. Hopefully, they can stay fit and continue putting in the kind of performance that saw us beat Spurs so comprehensively.