With Cody Gakpo seemingly on his way to Liverpool, Jürgen Klopp may finally be about to get a player he hasn’t had since Philippe Coutinho departed Anfield.
Having seen Liverpool return to the Premier League with an emphatic victory away from home, getting one over on Philippe Coutinho’s Aston Villa in the process, the news that broke about Cody Gakpo was only the icing on the cake for a perfect Monday night for Jürgen Klopp and his men.
Late last night PSV confirmed that a deal had been agreed with Liverpool to bring the Dutch international, who had excelled at the World Cup, to Anfield. While Liverpool still have to agree on personal terms and wait for Gakpo to pass a medical, it seems that the 23-year-old will join the club iminently.
An athletic forward with intelligent movement and the ability to play in various roles, Gakpo is exactly the kind of player Liverpool would have wanted to add, especially with two major medium-term injuries in their front line to Diogo Jota and Luis Díaz respectively.
So who better to move for than someone who is hugely admired by Klopp’s right hand man, Pep Lijnders? It has been reported that Lijnders believes Gakpo is Liverpool’s ‘missing link’ according to Dutch football reporter Hans Kraay Jr, speaking on ESPN, and it seems that the Liverpool assistant manager has now got his wish.
Whether Gakpo is truly the final piece of the puzzle for Liverpool, only time will tell. However, there is plenty to like about the Dutchman and one stat in particular could give Klopp a new element in his attacking play.
One of Gakpo’s main strengths is his ability to strike the ball. Blessed with humungous size 12 feet, Gakpo is adept at crossing, set-pieces and finishing as well. He is able to generate a lot of power behind his shots and that gives him a potent threat in almost any area of the pitch.
It should come as no surprise that out of Gakpo’s last 75 shots, 32 of them have come outside the box, meaning 42.6 per cent of his shots overall are from outside the penalty area as per Wyscout. Out of those 32 shots, four of them were goals, which means a quarter of his last 16 goals for club and country were long-range efforts.
Liverpool don’t have that kind of player in attack at the moment. As Per WhoScored, only 24.6 per cent of the Reds’ shots in the Premier League have been taken from outside the box this season, the lowest proportion in the division.
The last time Liverpool truly had a player with an ability to strike the ball from long range efficiently was when Coutinho was still plying his trade for the Reds and scoring long range stunners week in, week out. A late substitute for Aston Villa, he has suffered a terrible drop-off, but when he lined up for Klopp it seemed he would threaten to score in this manner every time he stepped onto the pitch.
Of course, stepping up onto a much bigger stage means Gakpo will have less time and less space on the ball, and it is not guaranteed that he will produce the same volume of long-range strikes as he has been doing for club and country in the last few months.
But if he can even replicate a small vestige of his output in a Liverpool shirt, or get anywhere near Coutinho at his best, that alone might be enough to give Klopp a new element in attack, and perhaps offer the ‘missing link’ for which Lijnders has been yearning.