The Class of 2018/19 is a short series in which, ahead of the new season starting on Friday, The Anfield Talk contributors review the 2018/19 season’s of Liverpool’s squad.
Here is @thescousemouse9, reviewing Georginio Wijnaldum’s season…
Be honest, you’ve done it.
You heard the song ‘This Girl’ come on and the lyrics ‘de, de, de, der, de de’ come along, the next two words that spout out have nothing to do with the original track. Instead they are Gini Wijnaldum.
Though behind the name is a competent midfielder who has been an ever present in the Jurgen Klopp era midfield. This robust little bundle of energy and determination played a key role in Liverpool adding a sixth European cup to their collection.
Big Man for the Big Occasions
Rewind the clocks three years ago when the former Newcastle man signed for Liverpool, no one could envisage the impact Wijnaldum would have. An ever present in the side, despite the lack of goals that matched his tallies for previous clubs PSV Eindhoven and Newcastle.
This makes Wijnaldum’s evolution as a more rounded midfielder more surprising. Though it reflects Jurgen Klopp’s coaching ability to transform an instinctive attacking midfielder into a pressing machine that would fit into any other side at the top level.
Look at the opposition the Dutch international has come up against this season such as Marco Verrati, Thiago, Sergio Busquets. They have all failed to intimidate Wijnaldum, in fact it has been the other way around.
Wijnaldum has always been an unknown quantity during the crucial games. There are just moments he comes up with that you leave you and the other side stunned. The bigger the game the bigger Wijnaldum’s presence stands out. This is quite startling considering his critics about his productivity against the so-called smaller teams.
Hence, it’s surprising how shocked the Liverpool fanbase are Wijnaldum produces these ten out of ten performances against the bigger sides.
The Champions League being a competition that consists of the highest quality teams around Europe, will expose those who can’t play at that level. Wijnaldum has shown many times he belongs to be named amongst the company of current elite players.
You just got to look at his flashpoints through the Champions League campaign. They vary from his dribbling technique that earnt Liverpool a penalty to make it 2-0 against PSG to the turn against Barcelona that bypassed three of their midfielders, leaving them bewildered.
All of these combine into a portfolio of Wijnaldum natural ability on the ball. It summarises what a unique talent Wijnaldum is by the way he can play the box to box midfielder as well as muscling other midfielders out of games.
Then there are his decisive moments this season in the Champions League. If anything, the first leg against Barcelona at the Camp Nou gave a taster of Wijnaldum role as a thorn in the Barcelona side hopes of winning the Champions League.
Despite the headlines being about Lionel Messi and his moment of magic with the free kick that made it mission impossible for Liverpool, Wijnaldum was an underlining menace. His position as a false nine was causing all sorts of problem for Barcelona.
Filling in for the injured Roberto Firmino, Wijnaldum was picking up pockets of spaces that was stretching the Catalan side’s defence. This made Wijnaldum integral to creating chances that even with Liverpool not being at their ruthless best did showed that Barcelona were vulnerable.
Therefore, Wijnaldum’s performance in the first leg was the perfect warm up for the comeback that can only be beaten by the miracle of Istanbul.
The stage was set, Liverpool 1-0 up but 3-1 down on aggerate, a saviour was needed, a chance to write their names in Liverpool folklore.
Step forward Gini Wijnaldum.
Having already scored the decisive goal that got Liverpool in the 2017/2018 final, he went one better with his heroics off the bench. Scoring two quick fire goals to overturn a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 win on aggregate turned Barcelona’s secure lead into a miraculous recovery.
The passion in Wijnaldum’s face running to the corner of the Kop, lost in the mist of his ecstatic teammates jumping on him, the roar from the Kop is an image that will never be forgotten.
Even with Wijnaldum not at his scintillating best in the final, saying that who was, the triumph in Madrid will remain a symbol of an outstanding season by the Dutchman.
The iconic header at the Kop end that completed the comeback against Barcelona will always be one of the treasured memories of Wijnaldum time at Anfield.
The goal epitomised Wijnaldum, someone who reached great heights that no one expected.