12 Aug 2016

Anfield Shocker? Molby insists Klopp 'will' replace 'brilliant' €35m Liverpool star with 'exciting' Wijnaldum for Arsenal

It's just two days until Liverpool face Arsenal in the big Premier League kick-off, but who will make Jurgen Klopp's first competitive starting XI of of 2016-27 campaign? In most cases, the club captain is a certain starter, but Reds legend Jan Molby predicts that Klopp will spring at least one major surprise for his first line-up of the season.

In his column for the Liverpool Echo this week, Molby insisted:

"[Klopp] will go for Wijnaldum ahead of Henderson in midfield. It would be a big deal to leave out the captain...but Klopp wants Liverpool to be brave and he wants quality in terms of creating chances in that area".

In my view, this is a mistake:

* Wijnaldum is not a central midfielder! This is obvious to everyone except Jurgen Klopp (and Molby, it seems).

* Last season, Wijnaldum excelled in a more advanced position, so why fix something that isn't broken by moving him out of his comfort zone?

* Henderson has fitness issues, but at least he's an experienced central midfielder. Conversely, Wijnaldum has spent only 15% of his career playing as a centre-mid.

* There is no evidence from Wijnaldum's pre-season performances that he is ready to dominate in central midfield.

In any event, chance-creation is a flawed justification for playing Wijnaldum over Hendo (in central midfield), and this is categorically proven by the stats for both players over the last 3 completed seasons (2013-2016):

* Wijnaldum: 100 chances created in 7499 mins (One every 75 mins)

* Henderson: 168 chances created 8659 mins (One every 51 mins)

In my view, Wijnaldum - hailed by Klopp for his 'exciting' potential - should be in the team but not at the expense of Henderson in central midfield. If Klopp is going to tinker with that area of the field, then play Grujic, who is a dedicated central midfielder (!)

On a related note: Klopp already left Henderson out of the starting line-up for Barcelona, and if he dumps him for Arsenal, then the writing is surely on the wall. After all, how many top teams drop their *captain* for massively important league games?

^ Jan 2016: Described by Klopp as 'brilliant'. €35m-rated (CIES Football Observatory)


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