Cody and How to: Strengths, Weaknesses and Style of Play


Liverpool are set to make Dutch striker Cody Gakpo their first addition in 2023, after the Reds moved to sign the PSV striker shortly after Christmas. So what will he bring and what can fans expect?

At the moment, Jurgen Klopp is quite famous for not just launching new contracts directly into the starting lineup, but only a few selected players are excluded from this process.

One of them, of course, was Virgil van Dijk, and the other was Alisson Becker. In a rarer case in attack, Luis Diaz almost immediately became a stationary piece of furniture due to his quick strike, but few others bucked this trend.

Cody Gakpo may well turn out to be different — albeit for a different reason: necessity.

Since Diaz, Diogo Hota and Roberto Firmino have dropped out of the game, as well as due to the lack of potential substitutes such as Curtis Jones, Gakpo can quickly get into the team simply because of availability and familiarity with the role for which the Reds need someone.

Thus, the plug-and-play option on the left is far from the worst gift that supporters of a late Christmas could receive.

Familiar scheme of the game

Tall, imposing, fleet-footed, right-handed and left-handed, tight to the sideline and running from the outside.

No, we didn’t re-sign Sadio Mane, and we’re not talking about Diaz. But it is significant that the “style” of the player that Liverpool or Klopp wants to see on this side of the attack has not changed at all.

Just as Darwin’s transition to Firmino’s place does not look like a similar one, despite some coincidence, so this step would not have been such if Gakpo had ousted Diaz — which is unlikely now, except for fitness.

The Dutchman is much more focused on smoothly accelerating to top speed than on the instantly friction-inducing, initial steps of Diaz. He is much faster than Mane, thanks to his precise control over the player, but at the same time he has less inclination to attack air balls than the Senegalese.

Gakpo may lack the aggression and frankness of Mane and Diaz right now, but he’s also a better kicker with both feet than either of them.

And yet, when it comes to what he will offer in his first minutes, the first matches, it’s more like the same thing: a great ability to shorten the infield, tie the game and beat the shots.

Some very recognizable features of Gakpo will be immediately clear, including his constant attempt to start a little narrowly and then move away from the shoulder of the outfield defender to get a few meters of space closer to the sideline and get a big switched diagonal pass.

As soon as he gets control and space to evaluate his marker, the second phase begins: defeat him and go beyond him. Gakpo has individual skill, but does not always bother with it. Why would he do that if he’s already faster than a defender? Making concessions is a sure recipe for success when you know you’re getting a return from a teammate by proving your composure in front of goal.

He also does “Diaz”: runs along the edge of the box past two, three, even four, if necessary, until this corner opens to tie one top bin.

Add to this the rapid shifting and pushing away from the defender at the beginning of his driving from deep, his excellent first touch, which allows you to tear the game away from the guardian, and his willingness to make overhangs from the left flank instead of always throwing and — these are many aspects of his game in possession of the ball that do not require special adaptation to the approach “Liverpool” to build.

Central place in the plans

All of this suggests that he naturally plays on the left, which seems most likely to start. But almost every striker Klopp dealt with had his game changed in one way or another.

And for fans who don’t usually watch Eredivisie matches, their opinion of Gakpo will naturally be colored (orange) by his performances at the World Championships, where he was an attacking star in the team led by Virgil van Dijk.

It’s not problematic, but it requires some context.

The changes between club and country meant a more boring build-up of the Gacpo team under Louis van Gaal in Qatar and much more movement to find a position to play in while his defensive teammates blocked opponents, as opposed to actively participating. yourself in these phases.

PSV is averaging 18 shots per game in the Netherlands’ top division this season; the Netherlands averaged eight at the World Cup. It was a more passive approach than the best domestic team would normally use, and the time of the Gakpo and the area on the ball were changed accordingly.

In the Eredivisie this season, his shots, leading and key assists in 90 minutes are 4.1, 5.0 and 4.7 respectively; for Orange in Qatar, they were 1.0, 2.5 and 1.9.

His actual position has also changed, he began to play more centrally – at different times as No. 10 and No. 9. This is partly systemic, since the Dutchman uses flanking defenders and does not use flanking forwards, but it is also a transition that uses his ability to drive the ball through the central zones, his convenience of getting the ball surrounded by players and the speed he has to join the game. attack.

This was also demonstrated this season for his club against Zurich, for example, a game in which he played on the left, but was able to conduct a counterattack right into the heart of an (admittedly bad) opponent, scoring his first of two goals on the night.

All this is just to show that he can play more than one role, and also to demonstrate that his performances in the Netherlands do not tell the whole story in terms of the speed of the game, the constant impact for 90 minutes and how he contributes to the attack. .

Areas for improvement

As a 23-year-old striker, he has naturally honed many of his ball-playing qualities by this point and may not necessarily acquire much more technical ability.

But Klopp and the coaches will undoubtedly look for more in other areas.

When and where to push — and how hard — is a natural adaptation for most players signed by Liverpool, and Gakpo will be no exception.

His speed, rather than strength, will probably be something they will try to make the most of in terms of closing passes and changing positions after game transitions, rather than actively closing and making tackles. He’s already doing it, and well, but it takes a step forward.

Another notable aspect of his game, which probably needs to be refined, is familiar to the best attacking talents of the Eredivisie: the tendency to hold onto the ball for too long is undoubtedly born of the fact that he is better than any defender they face.

Moving the ball quickly and deciding which action is better is a key improvement for Gakpo, and one can expect some initial disappointments in eliminating this trait.

He’s a real gem of a player to work with, he’s a bit different from those before him and a bit like them, and another part of the Liverpool team upgrade, who can play right through the attacking line from the start. go.


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