December 1, 2023

Liverpool’s change to release Darwin Nunez has gone under the radar

Liverpool's change to release Darwin Nunez has gone under the radar

Liverpool’s change to release Darwin Nunez has gone under the radar

Cody Gakpo has accomplished more than most in his first seven months at Anfield.

Since joining Liverpool in January 2023 from PSV Eindhoven, the Dutchman has been utilized in a variety of positions by manager Jurgen Klopp. In last week’s Bundesliga 2 doubleheader against Karlsruher SC and Greuther Furth, the 23-year-old was utilized in a central midfield position for the first time.

Fabinho and Jordan Henderson were absent from the training camp in Germany due to interest from Saudi Pro League clubs Al Ettifaq and Al-Ittihad. Trent Alexander-Arnold was tasked with anchoring the midfield in their absence.

In their absence, Gakpo displayed his extensive skill set, which had been on exhibit during his first few months with Liverpool. During Monday’s friendly, the substitute midfielder drifted around the field, making it difficult for Greuther Furth players to approach him.

It wasn’t the first time the 23-year-old Dutchman has been deployed in that role. In the final home Premier League game of the previous season, he filled that function as Liverpool chased a late equalizer against Aston Villa.

Gakpo received the ball from Van Dijk in his own half in the 81st minute before dropping his shoulder, elegantly avoiding the pressure of Emi Buendia, and clipping the ball 30 yards into the stride of Salah, bypassing several Villa players in the process.

“The Dutchman was a nuisance for Villa’s defenders with his back-to-goal half-turn, which has become a common sight for Kopites during his young career as Liverpool’s latest false nine innovation.

“And, upon further reflection, Gakpo’s comprehensive tactical comprehension may prove to be a crucial factor in Darwin Nunez’s long-term success at Anfield. Klopp recently cited the forward’s difficulties in understanding the English language and his inability to adapt to his side’s pressing demands as the reason why he only started three of Liverpool’s last nine Premier League games prior to his recent injury.

“Rather tellingly, Nunez’s frustrations on Merseyside coincided with Gakpo’s arrival in the New Year, with the former PSV Eindhoven captain emerging as Klopp’s preferred Firmino replacement. Due to this shift in the Anfield pecking order, eight of Nunez’s 2023 appearances for the Reds have been on the left flank and not in a central position.

“In fact, since Gakpo’s Premier League début in late January during a 3-0 loss at Brighton, he and Nunez have started just nine of a possible 23 games together, with Liverpool winning just four of those. The Uruguayan was only given two Premier League starts in April and May, which coincided with the return of Luis Diaz on the left wing, as his team embarked on a seven-game winning streak and vaulted themselves into the league’s top four.

“While Gakpo has flourished in his role as the attack’s focal point and is expected to continue to do so in Firmino’s absence, this season has exposed the Reds’ overreliance on their renowned 4-3-3 formation.” In order to avoid a repeat of this season’s struggles as Klopp constructs his second great team over the summer, versatility will be crucial.

Gakpo’s versatility could prove to be a secret weapon if Jurgen Klopp is to get the most out of all of his attacking options this season, as Liverpool will be trialing a 3-2-2-3 formation prior to the new season that places a heavy emphasis on midfielders assuming positions in attacking niches.

Liverpool’s change to release Darwin Nunez has gone under the radar

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