When Cody Gakpo arrived at Liverpool at the start of the calendar year, the club was an absolute mess. They were floundering mid-table and looking subpar in all areas of the pitch. It’s clear that the club was in dire need of a jumpstart, similar to the spark Luis Diaz provided last season to get the Reds back on track. Unfortunately, this was not the case with the Dutch international. Gakpo struggled to find his footing in an admittedly poor Liverpool side with some fans, unsurprisingly, writing the pseudo-nine off.
Fast forward to the end of this past season. Liverpool finished in fifth place, missing out on Champions League football next year. However, in a season filled with underwhelming performances, it’s the club’s new number 18 that remains one of the biggest potential contributors for the new campaign.
Not A Nine At The Eind
Initially utilized as a left winger with PSV Eindhoven, Gakpo was moved to the false nine “Firmino” role since his move to Merseyside. Despite the aforementioned slow start, the Dutchman would soon establish himself as one of Jurgen Klopp’s first-choice attackers. A return of seven goals and three assists in 26 appearances for the Reds hardly sets the world on fire. But using the eye test and analyzing Gakpo’s fit in an attacking three one can easily ascertain that his physicality and technical ability complement the likes of Mo Salah, Diogo Jota, and Luis Diaz astutely.
His versatility is also a tremendous asset, with Klopp deploying him in that false nine, his traditional left winger role, and even in central midfield on occasion. Obviously, he is still figuring out his responsibilities on the whole in Klopp’s system, but he’s made tremendous strides. It is even more impressive given how he looked when he initially arrived at the club.
Bobby-Sized Shoes To Fill
With the departure of club legend Roberto Firmino this summer, Gakpo is destined to “fill his shoes.” Nevertheless, that is a massive ask given the way the Brazilian revolutionized the false nine role at the club. While there are still avenues for improvement, it is apparent that the 24-year-old has responded to his critics following early growing pains. It speaks to his overall football intelligence that he’s managed to integrate himself seamlessly into Klopp’s formation. Going into 2023-24, he’s as nailed-on a starter as anybody.
Out with the old, in with the new. The expression looks to be ringing true with the next phase of the Jurgen Klopp era. Heroes such as Firmino and James Milner say their farewells. But taking that torch and lighting the path to the future is Cody Gakpo.