After his Man of the Match performance in a new role against Everton, some Liverpool supporters have likened Stefan Bajcetic to another midfielder who shone under Jurgen Klopp.
After joining the Reds as more of an attacking player in 2016, Gini Wijnaldum went on to master a combative box-to-box midfield role under Klopp.
Many feel the Reds are yet to have replaced the Dutchman since he left upon the expiration of his contract in 2021, but Bajcetic’s derby display has led to some comparisons being made between the two.
Having anchored the Reds’ midfield in all of his previous appearances since breaking into the first team, Klopp made the decision to deploy Bajcetic in more of a ‘Wijnaldum role’ against Everton, with Fabinho coming back into the starting lineup.
And it was a decision that paid off, with Liverpool’s midfield trio producing their most cohesive performance in some time, and Bajcetic his best display yet.
Now, a pressing dashboard posted by @AIUnderPressure on Twitter shows how the 18-year-old flourished in a slightly more advanced role to what he’s been used to.
The coloured dots in the diagram at the top show the success rate of Bajcetic’s pressing situations, with yellow representing a ‘successful’ press and blue showing possession wins.
An outstanding pressing dashboard from Stefan Bajcetic. Volume, intensity and quality – the complete package. Best individual pressing performance by any #LFC players since Naby Keita FA Cup semi-final pic.twitter.com/FCWkHEeVsp
— AIUnderPressure (@AIUnderPressure) February 15, 2023
Thiago‘s absence gave Bajcetic an opportunity to impress in a more advanced role, and while nobody is in doubt of the individual quality of the ex-Bayern Munich midfielder, there’s certainly an argument to suggest the Reds looked better with a more combative and physical midfield trio.
Writer Sam McGuire pointed out how Bajcetic’s role also allowed Liverpool’s full-backs to be more involved going forward.
This will likely be taken the wrong way but Bajcetic was more Gini than Thiago as the LCM yesterday. Was responsible for just 6% of the team's total passes whereas Thiago was up at 12% against Wolves.
He kept play ticking over and this allowed the full-backs to be more involved.
— Sam McGuire (@SamMcGuire90) February 14, 2023
I think Liverpool found Bajcetic's most effective position in that Everton game. A No.8 who can be proactive when needed, but one who can also drop back to form a double pivot. https://t.co/6vGDWGSp8w
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) February 15, 2023
Stefan Bajcetic. That is all.
Has taken up Gini’s mantle of wriggling out of every situation with the ball. Bravo senor
— Br19n Durand (@BrianDurand56) February 13, 2023
Any doubts as to whether Bajcetic could hold his own in a derby match against a physical Everton team were quickly put to bed, with the Spain youth international impressing throughout.
The question, now, will be whether Klopp continues to use him in the number eight position going forward.
Thiago will be a huge miss in the coming weeks, but have the Reds now stumbled across Bajcetic’s most suitable position in this team?
Plenty of calls for big money to be spent in midfield this year, but Wijnaldum’s replacement may have only cost the club £224,000. Not bad, right?