Opinion: Is Cody Gakpo Liverpool’s James Milner Of Forwards?

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Opinion: Is Cody Gakpo Liverpool’s James Milner Of Forwards?

After the recent news of Jurgen Klopp’s choice to leave Liverpool at the end of the season, many matters remain up in the air at Anfield and even though betting would suggest Xabi Alonso is the heir apparent, there is no certainty over who will be the man in the dugout next term.

With a new Sporting Director required, key contracts to be resolved and a quadruple bid still to be dealt with, those placing a bet online would avoid making definitive calls on The Reds over the next few months.

However, one department that needs little in the way of change is the attack. Despite this, a closer look is necessary towards the future and the role of Cody Gakpo. Joining Liverpool during 22/23 alongside big-money frontman Darwin Núñez, there is currently uncertainty as to where his best role lies within the team.

Yet, Liverpool could potentially benefit from Gakpo’s firepower down the middle if used more consistently. Gakpo, once preferred by Klopp this time last season with spectacular performances against West Ham & Manchester United, at the current time, has fallen down the pecking order in comparison to in-form Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz and Nunez – not to mention the constant Mohamed Salah.

Signed as a left-winger who had operated centrally during his time at PSV and for the Dutch national team, a new role could be open to the 24-year-old with the injury to Dominik Szobozslai which sees Gakpo’s position potentially changed to be more reminiscent of the position he played in the World Cup in 2022.

The tournament set the young Dutch talent alight where he accompanied Memphis Depay in a two-striker partnership and played in a hybrid role featuring as a number 10 & striker, it opens the question of whether could Gakpo operate the same way with the likes of Nunez and Jota? Feeding passes to those in advance like Trent Alexander-Arnold, pushing forward and passing defenders to score with both his head & feet.

When it comes to external opinions others have said that they preferred Gakpo as a left winger, with Netherlands International Ronald de Boer quoting that ‘he’s better when he starts on the left and comes inside’. Evidently, he shone brightest in all positions, left wing for PSV, striker & a 10 for the Netherlands and for Liverpool, playing as all three.

Whilst having a James Milner type in the forward line and advanced midfield positions is no bad thing for The Reds, the use of the Dutchman following his arrival has been under the spotlight having initially appeared to be the Roberto Firmino 2.0 with the Brazilian’s departure confirmed, only to then become a makeshift central midfielder, occasional winger and rare central striker. 

Klopp has admitted that Gakpo himself has said that he feels his more natural position is at the left, hence it is up in the air on whether this would be possible but with the versatility in his game and the current form of other forwards, it begs the question that the forward could become a jack of all trades or a ‘Dutch Army Knife’ at Liverpool when needed.

It has been experimented with the recent injury to Salah of other forwards such as playing in his position, leaving Gakpo’s predominant roles at LW & ST open but instead, he has been played as a utility player, filling in on the right-hand side – yet another new position – or coming in when others are unavailable but when given his chance he has not shone as bright as expected.

Albeit the versatility would be viewed as a positive, it’s the impact that has occasionally been lacking on games for the former PSV man. Memorably, he missed a chance to make it 3-1 against Norwich City recently and failed to make an impact alongside the rest of the team against a humbling 3-1 loss away to Arsenal with one shot on target across the board.

Competing with the aforementioned four frontline attackers is certainly no easy task, but, with aspirations to become a leading man on Merseyside, it’s pivotal that Gakpo continues to prove his worth in a red shirt time and time again. 

With a new era upcoming for Liverpool it is a debate on Gakpo’s future, however, if used correctly It is clear that he will be a valuable asset for the future of the Reds. With glimpses of the form that Klopp originally bought him form showing in the EFL Cup with four goals in five appearances.

A headache perhaps, but one any manager in world football would be delighted to have as the powerful ace who was described as a player who ‘eats football’ by Klopp such is his obsession with the beautiful game, continues to develop, learn and adapt to every new challenge thrown at him.  

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