Imagine that you’re out dating, and you have two of them lined up, back-to-back. Seems like a recipe for disaster, but like me, you find yourself enjoying the thrill of all the probable situations that can play out. For one, one may spill into the other, and offset your schedule. But you back yourself anyway, because, like me, you are very sure of yourself.
So, you have one dame, a new one, with whom you haven’t really struck a chord yet, but is a bit of a looker, so you persist anyway, hoping things may fall into place. The other, you’ve been seeing on and off, have formed a good understanding with, but is set in her ways, that you can’t seem to remedy. You’re stuck in a bit of a dilemma. Ideally, you would want to spend enough time with the first girl, let’s call her Gene, to be able to let her get used to you and vice versa, so you can get a move on with her. It’s Gene you prefer. But that eats into your commitments with… Lana, let’s call her Lana. Lana’s alright, she’s decent in bed, sometimes even great, but only sometimes – and you’re there thinking that Gene might be even better, but you wouldn’t know yet, not for sure, in any case, so you play along. Date them on the same day, and you don’t get enough traction on either side to play your game. You don’t get to know Gene, but Lana’s there waiting on you.
I do realise this sounds a wee borderline sexist and a ponderous plot for a soap opera, but that is what Juergen Klopp’s predicament is at Liverpool with Genie Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana. You just can’t shoehorn both of them together in a working formation and expect things to turn out favourably.
The former Southampton man sets the tone for the gregarious German’s front-foot play with his incessant pressing, while offering very little else in way of tangible attacking end product (yes, he got that goal against Arsenal last week, but, really, he isn’t one who you’d back to do that at a ready frequency). Juergen has to assure his style is being asserted by deploying Lallana, who does his geggenpressing thing very well, to his credit, but with not nearly enough fulfilment at the end of it – in terms of assists or goals, or verticality – as highlighted by last season, but is one player the German knows what to expect from, therefore trusts, albeit… still, he’d prefer someone else in there.
That’s where Genie Wijnaldum is supposed to come in. 11 goals and 5 assists, with an accuracy rate of over 70% are staggering for any midfielder, which is the part, or mostly the reason why he was brought to Liverpool – to add assured goals from midfield. But as admitted by the dreamboat Dutchman, he’s finding his role to be new and unfamiliar at Liverpool and is looking to adapt himself accordingly. As a result, with a lack of understanding of where his bearings should be, he’s been largely anonymous in the last two games and shown enough touches, or the lack of to suggest that he may take much longer to get to grips with Juergen’s fastidious expectations.
Play them together, centrally, as Jordan Henderson as your designated sheet anchor, you are just asking for trouble. Big, brazen neon signs pointing to the vast grasslands, Pampas, Velds, Prairies and the Savannas suddenly sprouting between Liverpool’s backline and the centre-midfield. Duly raided into by Arsenal for their first goal, and Burnley for their second. And you’d expect that’d give enough indication to Tottenham, with their midfield-heavy attack and gaucho (native Argentinian cowboy) Mauricio Pochettino to herd his cattle and funnel through the middle. Yippee-ki-yay, Silver!
A word to the wise, bench one of them, and maybe get a defensive midfielder? After all, prudence and protection pay. In real life and in football.