The rise of Georginio Wijnaldum
The rise of Gini Wijnaldum has been quite a story. When he arrived at the red half of Merseyside in 2016, he was not known to many, nor did he generate the kind of hype that the likes of van Dijk or Alisson Becker in recent times have generated.
Yes, he had an amazing season at Newcastle, scoring 11 times in his debut Premier League season where he caught the eye of Jurgen Klopp. At Newcastle, he played a very attacking role. But with Coutinho, Firmino, Lallana, Mane already taking up the attackers' role it was interesting to see where Wijnaldum would fit in.
However, he slotted in seamlessly in his Liverpool debut, playing 80 minutes against Arsenal and even providing an assist for Adam Lallana. He then scored his first goal against Watford in a 6-1 thumping of the Hertfordshire based club. He then went on to score a few goals ending the season with 6 goals and 11 assists to his name.
He also got the tag of "The player who only scores at home" due to his goal scoring exploits coming at Anfield only. Although overall, the 2017-18 season was not as statistically productive as the previous, he did score 2 goals and provided 2 assists. He infamously scored Liverpool's first goal in the Champions League semi-final against Roma that allowed them to hold on to a first-leg advantage and advance to the final.
Though, on paper he is an attack-minded midfielder, Klopp sometimes employed him in a #6 i.e. a holding midfielder's role. He shouldered this responsibility remarkably, without much fuss about a non-preferred playing position.
In the ongoing 2018-19 season he has played all the three matches that Liverpool have played, in the #6 role and has done an outstanding job. In the most recent game against Brighton and Hove Albion, in which Liverpool eked out a 1-0 victory, Wijnaldum stood like a rock and boasted of a passing accuracy of 98.7%, meaning that he misplaced just one pass out of an attempted 76.
He is definitely a versatile midfielder who has shown the ability to play as a box-to-box midfielder as well as a holding midfielder. No other Liverpool player has featured in more games than Wijnaldum since his arrival at the club. His form and performances have kept the club captain Henderson and big signing Fabinho out of the playing XI.
All the focus has been on the new and improved Liverpool defence and their star Goalkeeper. However, Gini Wijnaldum has been working tirelessly in the shadows making him arguably one of the first names on the team sheet if not the first.
Thus his journey from being a relatively new name in the Premier League to becoming a force to reckon with, has been quite fascinating.