What Netherlands star Cody Gakpo can bring to Liverpool

    Eyebrows were raised as Liverpool made their first big move ahead of the inevitable January transfer window.

    Cody Gakpo has been closely linked with a move to his old rivals at East Lance Road, but instead of Manchester United, the 23-year-old Dutchman will play his football at Anfield after securing a move to Merseyside, which cost as much as reported to be original. 37 million (42 million euros).

    Another reason it came as a surprise was all the talk of Liverpool’s midfield-based transfer activity, an area where Jurgen Klopp has struggled for consistency both in terms of performances and availability.

    However, with attacking pairing Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz out of action for at least the next two or three months, Klopp has instead focused on replenishing his striker ranks and, on paper, Gakpo is an interesting choice.

    So why did Liverpool turn to him in an attempt to start a disappointing campaign?

    Dominance in the Eredivisie

    Gakpo has established himself well in the Dutch top flight after moving through the ranks at PSV.

    After making his 18-year-old debut in February 2018 against Feyenoord, he improved his performance every year, eventually making 159 appearances, scoring 55 goals and 50 assists for the club.

    But since the beginning of the 2021/22 season, Gakpo has reached a new level: not a single player has scored more Eredivisie goals during this time than his 46 (21 goals, 25 assists). In fact, no other player in the top 10 European leagues has scored 20+ goals and 20+ assists simultaneously in the same period.

    Only Ajax’s Dušan Tadic (44 games) comes close to them among Eredivisie players, having played seven games more than Gakpo (48 to 41).

    His form earned him a place in Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands squad for Qatar 2022, where Gakpo became the first Dutch player to score in his first three World Cup games.

    He did it from a centre-forward position, but Gakpo mostly played on the left side for PSV Eindhoven and this is probably where he spends most of his minutes at Liverpool.

    How it compares to Liverpool’s attacking options

    Despite playing more like a classic nine for Orange in Qatar, Gakpo has played on the left in most games for PSV this season.

    But the fact that he could have worked in different roles at PSV and the Netherlands would be another tick mark for Klopp, who could decide to use the Gakpo centrally if necessary once Diaz and Jota return.

    In the meantime, expect to see him on the left, Mohamed Salah on the right, and Darwin Nunez in the middle.

    Both will look forward to playing someone who can provide ammo from a wide position, as all of Gakpo’s 14 passes in the games he has started this season for PSV come from him on the left.

    But aside from his results, Gakpo looks well stylistically suited to the Reds. Fast, dynamic and good with the ball, he knows how to beat his marker and stretch the game.

    Salah is definitely Liverpool’s key player in attack, but the arrival of Gakpo should ease some of the burden on the Egyptian.

    Of the Liverpool forwards, only Salah has been more resourceful than Gakpo this season, creating 2.2 90-per-field chances in the Premier League while the Dutchman converted 2.0 90-per-field chances in the Eredivisie.

    In fact, Gakpo averaged more shots per 90 than Salah (4.1 vs 3.6), though perhaps this is to be expected given he was PSV’s mascot and the comparative strength of the Eredivisie should also be taken into account. compared to the Premier League.

    However, it highlights Gakpo’s positive attitude and attacking intentions that he has to show on the front lines, which has been unsustainable this season.

    The right mindset can be a vital element when it comes to flourishing under Klopp at Liverpool given the intensity they play when they give 100 per cent. However, this goes beyond random creation and shot frequency.

    Perhaps one of the main qualities that attracted Liverpool to Gakpo is his ability to win the ball high on the pitch, which is a key part of their high-pressing approach.

    Gakpo has won the offensive ball 0.8 times in 90 this season in the league, more than either Diaz (0.6), Salah, Roberto Firmino (both 0.5), Nunez (0.4) or Hots (0.0).

    Can Gakpo refill old shoes?

    One player who has particularly excelled in such a tense role for Liverpool has been Sadio Mane, who left the club for Bayern Munich at the end of last season.

    Many argue that one of the key reasons for the Reds’ erratic form this campaign is the absence of Mane, as Diaz and Nunez are very different from the Senegalese star.

    Gakpo is hardly a doppelgänger either, although aspects of his style can be compared to Mane, who came back 0.7 times in 90 minutes in the Premier League last season.

    The Dutchman’s performance this year is almost everything higher than Mane’s compared to last year, although again the strength of both leagues must be taken into account.

    Mane averaged 2.7 dribbles per 90 seconds with a 54.7% success rate. His frequency of 0.3 big chances created per 90 was far below the Gakpo average of 1.0 this season, while the former Red was tallying 3.1 shots per game.

    He scored 16 goals in 34 league games last season before leaving Anfield but only provided two assists, so there may be someone more adept at scoring and providing at the Gakpo at Liverpool.

    Pressure will be on Gakpo right away as there’s a gaping hole left of Klopp’s attack until Diaz and Jota return, but if his career trajectory and numbers mean anything, it’s reasonable to assume he could have the same impact on the one. what Diaz had when the Colombian arrived from Porto last January.

    This is at least a statement of Liverpool’s intentions to get their season back.

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