Klopp has been reluctant, a specific change at Liverpool could change everything

Jürgen Klopp can spark a $48 million ace with an obvious move to the Liverpool he has resisted for a year.

By Emmanuel Mendez

Jürgen Klopp can spark a $48 million ace with an obvious move to the Liverpool he has resisted for a year.
Jürgen Klopp can spark a $48 million ace with an obvious move to the Liverpool he has resisted for a year.
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If Liverpool falls short in the 2023/24 Premier League title race, its supporters will always wonder about what might have been when the Reds travelled to the Emirates Stadium. While Arsenal was clearly the better side, the match looked to be heading towards a draw until two key players combined for a calamitous error. These things happen, of course, and they’ve happened before. In March 2019, Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk were jointly responsible for a howler at Fulham which allowed Ryan Babel to score.

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It was broadly similar to the mistake from which Gabriel Martinelli gave the Gunners the lead last weekend. This was far from Liverpool’s only problem against Arsenal, though, as Jürgen Klopp acknowledged after the match. “We didn’t play enough football and needed to get used to each other, like the right-sided triangle was tricky to find,” he said. Indeed, Gabriel Magalhães’ long pass which led to the key goal came from the Reds’ right half-space.

Easy as it is to say with hindsight, it’s little surprise that this side of the Reds team failed to function correctly. It was only Ryan Gravenberch’s fourth Liverpool start on the right and the first with Trent Alexander-Arnold behind him, Joe Gomez and Conor Bradley occupying the right-back berth in his previous matches. It’s rarer still to find Cody Gakpo on that flank, with this game just his third start there for the Reds. While we are not privy to the players’ physical data or how they have trained in the week leading up to a match, it’s fair to question why Klopp selected the right side for which he opted.

Luis Díaz, Diogo Jota and Harvey Elliott have all made more starts than Gakpo in Mohamed Salah’s regular spot, with the latter of the trio also well versed in right midfield. Gakpo was arguably the strangest choice as he has such little experience in the position. Per Transfermarkt he has made 20 starts on the right wing in his career, and that includes youth level; the figure is just 13 for his first teams. In a match of such colossal importance, it was asking a lot of Gakpo for him to make a significant contribution from an unfamiliar position, and he duly delivered just one shot and created no chances.

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The origin of everything

It is strange that the Netherlands international has had just three starts on the left of the attack, the position in which he so often thrived for PSV Eindhoven. Arriving in the midst of something of an injury crisis, it was expected that Klopp would slot him straight in there, but the manager has so far almost entirely resisted what seemed like the obvious move. With two of the matches being in the FA Cup, Gakpo’s only Premier League start in what many would consider his best position occurred in the 3-0 loss at Wolves last season, a match in contention for being the nadir of Liverpool’s most disappointing season under Klopp. But his career numbers unquestionably suggest he should play there more often.

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