Jurgen Klopp warned onlookers not to expect an immediate impact from January signing Cody Gakpo, but the Liverpool forward has proven him wrong – much to the German’s delight.
Not every Liverpool signing can make an instant impact at Anfield. Darwin Nunez might have become the latest Reds player to score on his debut for the club, against Man City in last July’s Community Shield, but for other players, it takes a little longer to settle.
There is no shame in such a fact, and under Jurgen Klopp there has perhaps been additional understanding from supporters when new arrivals do require that bit more time to bed in.
Andy Robertson and Fabinho are perhaps the first examples that come to mind. The Scotland international wouldn’t become a regular for Liverpool until December 2017, while Fabinho had to wait until October 2018 to make his first Premier League start for the Reds.
Price tag and reputation matters not if Klopp wants a player to acclimatise more to Liverpool’s style and his demands before handing them a regular starting berth.
The likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kostas Tsimikas, and Ibrahima Konate have all taken that little bit longer to make an impact also. But while there was great scrutiny when the likes of Fabinho weren’t immediately in Klopp’s starting XI, now supporters are used to such patient treatment when required.
And perhaps that was expected again following the signing of Cody Gakpo from PSV Eindhoven in January. After all, having seen Luis Diaz make an explosive impact after joining from FC Porto 12 months earlier, Klopp warned not to expect the Dutchman to do the same.
“I’m very positive about him (but) I’m not sure it’s helpful to compare with Diaz impact,” Klopp told reporters ahead of Gakpo’s debut against Wolves in the FA Cup back in January. “That was really special to be honest.
“We could swap around a little bit. We had difficulties as well injury-wise so he was extremely helpful. That’s how it will be in this moment as well.
“Cody gets the same amount of time like each player. You have to settle in offensively, it’s not that easy. He comes in from a different league. That’s always difficult. It was for Lucho as well, but you don’t have to compare them. We expect a positive impact, definitely.”
At first, Klopp’s warning looked to be justified. After all, as Liverpool’s struggles continued, the Dutchman made a minimal impact in his initial appearances for the club.
He’d fail to score or assist during his first six outings for the Reds as they lost to the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion and Wolves. Meanwhile, it did little to help his bedding-in period that he found himself chopped and changed between left-wing and up front as Klopp failed to name a consistent front three.
Yet, in contrast to some of the aforementioned names, Gakpo was thrown straight into the Liverpool starting XI. With Diaz, Diogo Jota, and Roberto Firmino all long-term absentees, and Nunez also picking up small injuries, Klopp had no choice but to keep selecting his mid-season signing.
Now 12 games into his Liverpool career and the narrative is very different, in hand with the Reds starting to find form. Opening his account at the seventh time of asking against Everton, Gakpo made it back-to-back goals when scoring away at Newcastle United.
And while he was utilised as a substitute for the first time against Wolves last week, he responded with his best performance in a Liverpool shirt to date as he netted a brace in their 7-0 thrashing of Manchester United.
The 23-year-old now boasts four goals for the club, with all four coming when fielded centrally with Nunez on the left and Mohamed Salah on the right. When selected in a consistent attack, the Dutchman is already set to thrive as he continues to adapt to Klopp’s false nine role.
To put such a return into context, Diaz had two goals from his first 12 appearances when enjoying his electric start 12 months ago, though only seven of them were starts. Coming as the Reds chased an unprecedented quadruple, it demonstrates the two very different climates both players came into.
While Gakpo’s start hasn’t looked the most impressive in Liverpool history, his record certainly looks a lot healthier now than it did a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, he has certainly settled a lot quicker than some of the Reds’ other ‘slow-burners’ before him.
Klopp might have warned onlookers not to expect an immediate impact from the Dutchman, and perhaps he wouldn’t have had as much playing time and the opportunity to do so if not for injuries elsewhere. But now two months into his Liverpool career and Gakpo has perhaps already proven his new manager wrong, much to the German’s delight.