Cody Gakpo is showing why he can be Liverpool’s long-term successor to Roberto Firmino
By TOI Team May 23, 2023 Update on : May 23, 2023
As Liverpool end what has been a strange season on the back of their quadruple pursuit, many will be glad the campaign is over. However, the recent form of Jurgen Klopp’s team brings fresh optimism for the summer. Despite the departure of Roberto Firmino, who leaves the Reds after seven years and numerous trophies, the Reds will be encouraged by the January signing of Cody Gakpo, who has made that false nine position his own in recent weeks.
Indeed, Gakpo arrived from PSV Eindhoven when Liverpool were in poor form, languishing outside the top six and struggling to pick up results. Used mainly as a winger, his goals at the World Cup with the Netherlands were unable to transfer to the Premier League, and a difficult start to life at Anfield meant everyone had written the Reds off when pursuing the Champions League. However, after finding the back of the net against Everton in his first Merseyside Derby, Gakpo was used as a forward, allowing Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah to occupy space out wide, and now with Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota back from injury, Klopp has a wealth of attacking options at his disposal even with Firmino going.
Currently enjoying a six-game winning streak at the time of writing, those assessing the top 4 odds will certainly have their heads turned with Liverpool’s good form, which coincides with a difficult run for Manchester United. While Klopp has hailed it impossible for the Reds to play in the Champions League next season, he heaped on the praise for Gakpo since reinventing himself for this Liverpool team., describing him as “a joy to work with….. a super-smart kid”
The Dutchman has six goals for his new side in all competitions and you’d only expect that to increase when he has a full season under his belt as well as the notoriously challenging Klopp pre-seasons. It’s a role Gakpo is still learning but one his teammates are helping him acclimatise to.
“I’m enjoying it,” Gakpo said. “It was a new position for me but it’s been good for me to develop as a player and I like it. Dropping a little is something I can do to become an extra man in midfield at times. I just have to find my spaces to help the midfielders and the attackers as much as I can.
“The guys made me feel like I belonged here from the first minute I came in. I’m very grateful for how they treated me in the beginning. As time has gone on, I’ve become more comfortable and confident. I feel like this is home.”
With so much attacking depth, it’s testament that Gakpo is able to be a regular starter in such a competitive front three. But his versatility also means he can drop into midfield when required. The 1-0 win over Brentford at Anfield demonstrated he can play between the lines and is deceptively agile for a six-foot-four footballer playing such a dynamic system.
That flexibility will be crucial to playing in his more familiar forward role, which Firmino made his own throughout his time at Liverpool. The Brazilian could combine goalscoring with creativity and at just 23 years old, it’s something Gakpo could also master in the coming years.
It’s easy to see why Klopp was happy to wait six months to strengthen his midfield if it meant securing Gakpo’s signature. The Dutchman was wanted by United as well as Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich and Liverpool must have feared if they didn’t act quickly they would miss out on their man. It’s a clever signing with both the near and far future in mind and if he can replicate Firmino’s longevity then Liverpool could have a top striker on their hands for years to come.Read More: Cody Gakpo is showing why he can be Liverpool’s long-term successor to Roberto Firmino