You don’t win the league based on how good your starting XI is. What normally separates the winners from the chasers and contenders is their strength in depth and options off the bench.
Being able to call on strong reserves at key moments in the season can make a huge amount of difference to your ambitions. In the past Liverpool and Spurs in particular have really suffered from a lack of depth at the business end of the season, leading to the demise of their challenge for the big prize.
However it now looks as though Liverpool have taken steps to address this glaring issue. They invested heavily in the summer, to strengthen a strong base and some softer areas of their squad. However, Man City and Chelsea also possess real strength in depth and can call on some top class names, who are not nailed on starters, at key points in their campaign. Some of the players left out by Man City would simply waltz into most other sides on their day.
In this mini feature, we take a look at some of the players who go unnoticed or unsung, but ultimately do a lot of good for their sides. They are a few players who we may be talking a lot more about in the coming weeks.
As Liverpool have flown out of the traps, winning their first seven games, one of the star players has been none other than Gini Wijnaldum.
The Dutch International’s form has been excellent since the turn of the year and with the cruel injury blow served to Oxlade-Chamberlain, his game time has shot up. Despite a perceived lack of influence on proceedings, the opposite is actually true with Wijnaldum.
The former Newcastle midfielder is a real smooth, well oiled passer, first and foremost keeping Liverpool’s attacking play moving in the right direction. He is seldom flustered and is often the most composed player on the pitch in the chaos of Klopp’s pressing play. However, there is a lot more to his game than short, snappy passing and looking pretty cool.
For the majority of his Liverpool career, Wijnaldum has played with handbrake on as he has sacrificed his attacking play for the team ethic.
He is a player blessed with a lovely first touch, natural skill and a very decent turn of pace. He is often more than happy to take people on if the opportunity arises and can do some real damage with the ball at his feet. Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka learned this when he was ruined by Gini in the Gunners demise at Anfield last September.
In fact, Gini has already scored over 100 career goals, albeit, more than half in the Dutch League, but nonetheless he can still get forward and chip in if the opportunity arises. He looks hungry to add to his goal tally this season which could be a massive boost to Liverpool’s title push.
This campaign could well be yet another arduous and tiring one for this Liverpool squad. Klopp demands nothing but 100% commitment from his players at all times and it will take its toll as the season progresses.
Gini has serious competition from Keita, Henderson, Milner, Fabinho, Lallana and Shaqiri, so he may not always be a stitch on for a starting berth. However on current form, he has to start in the big games. He has the quality, experience and ability to be a real influence on Liverpool’s title push this season.
There is a vociferous majority of Liverpool fans who adore the good work he does on the pitch, but by and large, he is a player uncelebrated by most. That could well change if the Reds carry on their march at the top of the league with Gini at the heart of their efforts.