Jurgen Klopp has explained his thought process behind fielding Gini Wijnaldum up front against Barcelona, but it seems unlikely he will be retained at Newcastle.
Wijnaldum’s deployment at the tip of Liverpool’s attack at the Nou Camp came as a genuine surprise, as with Roberto Firmino ruled out it seemed more likely Sadio Mane would fill the role.
But his industry and close control were clearly pinpointed as key factors as the Reds looked to keep their Champions League semi-final opponents quiet.
It didn’t pan out that way, as Wijnaldum’s poor touch and unfamiliarity in the position let him down, and—though not due to his performance—Liverpool now head into the second leg facing a 3-0 deficit.
Speaking ahead of his side’s trip to the No. 5’s old home, St James’ Park, Klopp was questioned on his plan for the deficit in Catalonia, describing it as a “big task” to fill Firmino’s shoes.
“It was quite a big task. I told him ‘what does it say about you?’, he said ‘I don’t know’, and I said ‘you can play everything‘,” the manager told reporters.
“For different reasons, he needed 35 minutes to adapt to it but second half was really good.
“We needed this kind of player, an offensive player who is quite good in defending as well.
“Then we needed a player between the lines that was good enough to keep the ball, pass the ball.
“I know to people outside it’s easy to say ‘use another striker’, but there are different jobs to do on the pitch.
“Gini did really well, in a game like this, in a small space, in a new position for him, he knew about it and he’s the player to do it.
“It’s not about being this or that, as a football player you have to be educated in a lot of things, and he has this education. It helped, it was good, really good.”
Klopp’s thinking behind the tactical switch is understandable, although the execution was lacking, and it could be that one of Divock Origi or Xherdan Shaqiri is preferred on Tyneside.
The ideal situation would be that Firmino is fit to start, having come off the bench to play 11 minutes at the Nou Camp.
But whether that is likely remains to be seen, and the Brazilian should still be considered a doubt at this stage.
Questioned on Firmino’s fitness on Friday, Klopp simply said “we will see.”