Georginio Wijnaldum’s exit from Liverpool had been on the cards long before he confirmed the news at the end of last season, though few people predicted it would be Paris Saint-Germain releasing a cringeworthy social media post welcoming him to the club just a few weeks later.
The Dutchman’s arrival at Barcelona seemed almost as inevitable as his departure from the Reds at one point, but a late offer from Les Parisiens means Ronald Koeman has yet again missed out on the midfielder he’s courted over numerous transfer windows.
With Wijnaldum officially announced as a PSG player, it’s time for Liverpool to look to the future as they prepare for life without a man who’s been a mainstay in their midfield for the past five seasons.
Could it mean a tweak in system? Will Jurgen Klopp delve into the transfer market? Or is the Dutchman’s replacement already at the club? 90min has assessed exactly what Wijnaldum’s departure could mean for Liverpool moving forward…
First thing’s first, Liverpool aren’t a club who are willing to accept second best if their top target isn’t available, so don’t expect them to go scraping around the transfer market just to ensure they bring an extra body in.
However, the club’s hierarchy have clearly been expecting Wijnaldum’s exit – despite Klopp’s late plea for him to stay – and so their transfer team have had plenty of time to assess their options.
While Klopp’s defence and frontline are pretty settled – injuries aside of course – he likes to rotate his midfield and so you’d expect him to want to replace Wijnaldum to give himself plenty of options.
A lot is likely to depend on the fitness of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and whether Klopp trusts youngster Curtis Jones and the underperforming Naby Keita. If he does then you’d fancy the German tactician to be happy with the options already available to him as players return from injury, but if he doesn’t he’ll almost certainly be asking the club’s hierarchy to sanction the arrival of a new midfielder.
Yves Bissouma and Youri Tielemans have both been touted as potential players of interest to Liverpool, though both would demand hefty fees and you’d expect the club to be urging Klopp to give the aforementioned trio as much time as possible to either prove their fitness or show signs of progress.
If Liverpool opt against shelling out on a replacement for Wijnaldum – something which seems highly likely given most clubs are looking to tighten the purse strings – then a number of the aforementioned players could be asked to step up to the mark.
With James Milner well and truly in the twilight of his career – and possibly moving on this summer with just a year remaining on his current deal – it would be foolish to suggest he could become a mainstay of the midfield.
While Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jones don’t quite possess the technical ability of Wijnaldum, both of them have proven themselves to be adept at driving the team forward with progressive passing, something which was a feature of Wijnaldum’s game during his time at Anfield.
Should either Jones or Oxlade-Chamberlain be given the chance to cement their place in the starting XI, that would leave Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho to fight over the other two midfield positions, leaving Milner and Keita in reserve – suddenly a new summer signing doesn’t seem so necessary.
One option Klopp does have available to him is to utilise Diogo Jota in the number ten position while continuing to field his trusted front three.
The move would mean Liverpool would essentially only be starting with two midfielders – and it’s a system Klopp’s tried before – though in truth it leaves the Reds looking way too exposed to believe Klopp would see it as a viable option moving forward.
Other than that, there really aren’t a lot of other ways Liverpool could adapt their system to try and soften the blow of Wijnaldum’s departure. A midfield four seems an impossibility with the players at the club, and for Klopp to move away from the formation that’s brought him so much success at the club would seem ludicrous.
We’ve talked a lot about the ifs, buts and maybes that Klopp will be forced to consider over the coming months, but to summarise you could easily see the Liverpool boss wanting to bring in a midfielder to replace the void left by Wijnaldum, but whether the club will agree to it is an entirely different matter.
A change of shape almost definitely seems out of the question, and Klopp is likely to be asked to show some faith in some of his current crop of midfielders – Jones and Oxlade-Chamberlain in particular – as he looks to challenge for silverware without the brilliant Dutch midfielder at his disposal.