Written by: James McHale @jamesmchale2607
Liverpool’s Marko Grujic tore it up at Hertha Berlin season with many on social media arguing that he had been Liverpool’s loaned out star, ahead of Derby’s Harry Wilson and Rangers’ Ryan Kent. Does Grujic really have what it takes to force himself into Jurgen Klopp’s long-term plans?
Grujic’s spell with Cardiff City in the second half of the 17/18 season gave Liverpool fans an indication of how good the Serbian could be but up until then he had hardly kicked the ball and even when we did get onto the pitch he looked out of his depth. The step up from the Serbian first division to the Premier League is of course massive but there was a feeling amongst the supporters that Klopp simply didn’t like what he was seeing in training, whether it was a problem relating to his on-field work–rate or something more technical.
At Cardiff, Grujic managed an impressive 1.8 tackles and 1.8 interceptions per game, significantly higher than what Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson averaged last season in the Premier League – the Liverpool captain averaged 1.4 tackles and 0.9 interceptions per game last season. Grujic played at times like a player with something to prove and whilst he wasn’t anywhere near the finished product, he was hugely influential for the half-season he was there and was instrumental in them gaining promotion to the Premier League, so much so that they were desperate to keep him around for the following season too.
A move to Berlin came about following his breakout spell at Cardiff and with Klopp’s trust in the German footballing system, Grujic completed a season long move that would hopefully get him used to physical football and smoothen some of his rough edges. Since arriving in Berlin, he has been incredible with the midfielder boosting his stats from the season prior with his tackles per game up by 0.2 to 2 whilst his key passes and dribbles per game are also up significantly, making himself an un–droppable member of Pal Dardai’s side.
His temporary manager has been so impressed that he told journalists after his side’s defeat of Frankfurt that: “I’ve been at Hertha for 22 years […] Marko is by far the best midfielder I’ve seen in my time at the club.” The sweeping praise from Dardai was warranted too with Grujic’s brilliant performance against Frankfurt being deciding factor – the Serbian won 54% of all challenges, completed 92% of his passes, and had 4 attempts on goal.
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Hertha Berlin’s sporting director, Michael Preetz, went on record before the conclusion of the season to state that he would “no doubt do everything he can” to extend the midfielder’s stay in Berlin. Last week saw Liverpool confirm that the all-action midfielder would extend his stay in the German capital by 12 months with Jurgen Klopp reportedly telling Grujic that he would have a prominent role in his squad in 20/21 should the loan spell next season go as hoped.
Grujic is unique in that he isn’t like anything we have at the club; he has the frame and almost the playing style of Fabinho combined with the box-to-box qualities of Jordan Henderson. The player I would say that he is most similar to right now is Bayern Munich’s Leon Goretzka; both midfielders are around 6’2” tall, are brilliant at recovering the ball, and are both dangerous at either end of the pitch with their physicality and passing range setting them apart from the rest of the competition.
From a financial point of view it is promising that CIES value the Bayern man at around £35m and with the shortage of midfielders that are effective at both ends of the pitch, he could certainly be worth holding onto and nurturing. The Serbian is not the finished article and few would argue that he is currently as good as Goretzka, although the statistics do indicate that he might be closer than you would think:
- Passes per game: Grujic 43.1 vs 38.4 Goretzka
- Key passes per game: Grujic 0.7 vs 0.6 Goretzka
- Long balls per game: Grujic 1.6 vs 1.2 Goretzka
- Shots per game: Grujic 2.1 vs 1.8 Goretzka
- Tackles per game: Grujic 2 vs 1.4 Goretzka
- Interceptions per game: Grujic 1.3 vs 0.9 Goretzka
Grujic has the skill set to succeed at Liverpool with his height and weight setting him apart. Grujic weighs more than any of Liverpool’s current midfield contingent and so he would definitely add a physical presence to our current squad. While the Serbian has disappointed somewhat in terms of assists, he finished last season with only 1 to his name, his 5 goals from deep does make him unique amongst Liverpool’s current midfield options with Jordan Henderson and Fabinho only managing to a goal apiece in the Premier League last season.
He would be a good option in that roaming midfield role with his ability in both defensive and offensive situations offering something not currently present, though Jordan Henderson’s recent success there does prove that it is a role that Klopp is open to facilitating. Klopp’s decision to send the Serbian back to Germany for another season to fine-tune his skills does show that the midfielder is doing enough to keep himself in the gaffer’s plans and he is expected to be handed a squad role following next season, should he continue to improve and develop in Germany.
Article by James McHale @jamesmchale2607