Liverpool look set to sign Georginio Wijnaldum for a fee believed to be around £25m. I’ve taken a very quick look at some of his stats from the last campaign (with a few words on Mané here for good measure too).
Last season, Wijnaldum scored eleven league goals against an expected goals total of 10.43, giving him a performance rating of 105%. He and another Reds new boy Sadio Mané were very closely matched here (Mané also scored eleven, vs an ExpG tally of 11.64) but whereas Mané missed his one penalty, Wijnaldum scored his.
That aside, their records were virtually identical, and it’s clear that Jurgen Klopp has identified that Liverpool need more goals from midfield; Wijnaldum and Mané were ranked joint-third in the Premier League for goals whilst playing in midfield last season, so both should go a long way to addressing that issue.
Although Wijnaldum scored all of his goals at St James’ Park, he did have clear-cut chances (which are defined by Opta as “situations where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range”) away at Arsenal and Manchester City so with slightly better finishing he could easily have broken his away duck.
It’s also worth noting that in his final season in the Eredivisie with PSV, he scored nine non-penalty goals away from home and only one player (Michael de Leeuw) bettered that, and even then by only one goal. I suspect Wijnaldum’s lack of goals away from St James Park may have been more to do with Newcastle’s issues than his own. I guess we’ll see this season.
In terms of top quality creativity, he created five clear-cut chances for his colleagues. That doesn’t sound particularly impressive, but Newcastle as a team only created thirty-one all season, so he was responsible for 16.1% of their total.
For context, Coutinho and Firmino were the top CCC providers for Liverpool (each setting up nine of the club’s total of fifty-five) with 16.4% of the Reds’ tally so I’m hopeful Wijnaldum would create a similar amount when playing for a better team.
Using my expected assists system (which I created a few years back), the chances Wijnaldum created were worth 3.3 assists in total and he got four so as with his expected goal scoring, that basically matches up. (NB Some stats sites gave him an assist for the Toon’s second goal at Liverpool, for five in total, but Stats Zone which I use to collate my data did not, hence why I’ve got him as having four).
The numbers aren’t all positive though, and his defensive stats do give me slight cause for concern. His ball recovery rate is virtually identical to the likes of Coutinho and Firmino, but whilst Wijnaldum averaged 1.9 tackles and interceptions per ninety minutes played, the likes of Firmino (3.0) and Lallana (2.5) topped that figure just on tackles alone.
Bear in mind too that Newcastle averaged 47.4% possession compared to Liverpool’s 55%, so the Dutchman will have had more opportunity to win the ball back than his new teammates did. Will he be hard working enough for a Klopp side?
It’s always hard to assess the stats of a player who played for a bad team, but Wijnaldum did pretty well all things considered. In many ways it’s encouraging that he ‘only’ scored as many goals as his shot locations said he should; I’d prefer that to signing someone who had massively overachieved on a short term basis, as this appears to be more sustainable.
With Liverpool providing more and better quality opportunities than Newcastle did, I’m confident Wijnaldum can score double figures for the Reds in 2016/17.