Gini Wijnaldum’s free transfer move to FC Barcelona is expected to be completed soon, as per Fabrizio Romano. Wijnaldum will be the third Liverpool star to move from Merseyside to Barcelona in the last seven years. Albeit, this one will earn nothing for the Reds, unlike the Luis Suarez and Phillipe Coutinho moves, from which Liverpool earned over £200 million. In this article, I will attempt to understand the role Gini Wijnaldum could play under Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona re-build.
In the 3-1-4-2:
Since the last week of February, Barcelona has shifted to three at the back to offer more solidity in defence. Sergio Busquets has played as the sole defensive midfielder, while Frenkie De Jong and Pedri have paired up in central midfield. De Jong and Busquets are incredible at passing the ball, while Pedri is more known for his dynamism and attacking flair.
If Wijnaldum is given the freedom to roam and push up, he is a major threat to any team’s defence. We’ve seen this during his playing time for the Netherlands National team. In November 2020’s International break, Wijnaldum was given this kind of role and managed 4 goal contributions in only 2 games. However, this is not the role he played for Liverpool. For the Reds, he was used as more of a press-resistant and press-intensive midfielder. Wijandlum’s ball retention and pressing intensity is unbelievable, but whether that’s what Koeman expects out of him in a 3-1-4-2 is another question.
In the 4-2-3-1:
Ronald Koeman, in October 2020, had expressed his views on the 4-2-3-1 formation as the “perfect system for this team considering the qualities of the players.” Although this didn’t quite work out for Barcelona, with Wijnaldum joining them, it could suit them perfectly. We just have to look back to Koeman’s time as the Dutch National side’s Head Coach. The Dutchman used the 4-2-3-1 formation on most occasions, with Wijnaldum playing as the number 10.
The 30-year-old flourished as a CAM, most notably in the 2019/20 European Qualifiers where he scored seven times and assisted once in his 5 appearances. Although some of the sides weren’t of the same calibre as the Dutch team, Wijnaldum’s efficiency was clearly displayed as a 10. However, the same caveat lies in that he’s never played this role for the Liverpool team he was with for 5 seasons.
In the 4-3-3:
Wijnaldum’s time under Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was primarily in the 4-3-3 as one of the central midfielders. In recent times it has been Wijnaldum and Henderson or Thiago sitting beside Fabinho, who occupied the number 6 role. Wijnaldum was pretty much a number 8, but the role of full-backs in the Liverpool side made him curtail his attacking instincts and instead cover for the marauding Andy Robertson on the left.
Given that Koeman has expressed his desire to play the 4-2-3-1 and Wijnaldum doing really well under Koeman in the same formation, it would be the most obvious choice for the two Dutchman. However, if Koeman is still not satisfied with his defensive solidity, he can turn to a 4-3-3/3-1-4-2 where Wijnaldum would operate as a CM.