Cody Gakpo in a Netherlands U-18 friendly match against Austria U-18s
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Steindy (talk)

Can Gakpo turn Liverpool’s season around?

Cody Gakpo officially became a Liverpool player on 1 January, completing a £44m move from PSV Eindhoven. According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds had been forced into the transfer amid interest from Manchester United, with manager Jurgen Klopp conceding that Gakpo would have become ‘unaffordable’ in the future. Given Liverpool’s stagnant form and disappointing start to the season, can Gakpo’s arrival spark some life into Klopp’s side and propel Liverpool up the table?

Gakpo fits the profile of a classic Klopp forward-line signing: fast and with an eye for goal. The 23-year-old arrived on Merseyside after a prolific start to the season with PSV, scoring nine times and assisting 12 goals to top the Eredivisie contribution charts. Gakpo helped the Netherlands to a quarter-final finish in the World Cup with three goals in the tournament.

After Liverpool’s success in last year’s January window with the signing of Colombian winger, Luiz Diaz from Porto, it is not surprising that the Reds would dip into the transfer market once again. Long-term injuries to Diaz, Diogo Jota and a series of knocks to Roberto Firmino prompted the Reds to search for reinforcements, with the rumour mill turning constantly throughout the World Cup. Liverpool will hope that Gakpo’s introduction can inject some energy into their underperforming side.

The Reds are chasing Champions League qualification but find themselves significantly adrift of the leaders. Liverpool’s frailties this season were exposed once again during their defeat at Brentford for the hosts’ first victory over the Reds since 1938. Ibrahima Konate’s unfortunate own goal and Trent Alexander-Arnold getting caught napping at the back post hardly covered Klopp’s side in glory. Yet, although this defensive carelessness has been symptomatic of Liverpool’s season so far, their lack of invention going forward was particularly worrying.

Liverpool fans should be excited about Gakpo’s arrival, if not for this season, then for future campaigns

Liverpool had fewer shots on target than Brentford during the 90 mins. They were sluggish going forward and lacklustre in trying to pick the Bees apart. Klopp’s once mentality monsters have now dropped 23 points this season; one more than the entirety of their illustrious 2021-22 campaign.

Gakpo will likely come into the Liverpool team on the left wing, replacing Alex
Oxlade-Chamberlain who has started there in each of Liverpool’s three opening games. Under Ruud van Nistelrooy, Gakpo often featured on the left of a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3. He frequently cut inside to allow Philipp Max to make overlapping runs from left-back in a similar way to Liverpool’s Andy Robertson or Kostas Tsimikas. His introduction into Liverpool’s formation should in theory be seamless from a positional perspective, but he will need to adapt to the style of pressing and counter-pressing that Klopp has sought to instil in his players.

Fans will hope that Gakpo can drive at defences, much like Sadio Mané once did down the Liverpool left. It is clear that Liverpool are missing the Senegalese talisman, who is appearing very difficult to replace — particularly given his excellent work rate and lack of injuries. Diaz had been a breath of fresh air in the Liverpool team, but his absence from the first team is proving to be significant.

It remains to be seen whether Gakpo’s introduction can really be the catalyst for Liverpool’s improvement in form this season, but he certainly has all the attributes to fit Klopp’s system. Despite the signing, there remain a number of inherent problems in this Liverpool side which must be addressed during the course of the season and in future transfer windows to help Liverpool reach last season’s high standards. Liverpool fans should be excited about Gakpo’s arrival, if not for this season, then for future campaigns.


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