Cody Gakpo Euro 2024 form makes Klopp's use of Netherlands forward look all the more CONFUSING

Cody Gakpo is having a Euro 2024, isn’t he? His performances are making Jurgen Klopp’s use of the Dutchman over the past 18 months even more confusing. 

He’s the joint-top goalscorer with three and he’s been named as the Player of the Match in two of his four starts in Germany. 

Deployed on the left side of the attack by Ronald Koeman, the feeling is that he’s catching the eye as a result of being used in his best position

He thrived there for PSV before his big-money move to Liverpool and whenever he was used in a similar role for the Reds, he impressed. Unfortunately, however, he wasn’t given the opportunity as a left-sided forward by Klopp on a regular basis. 

Instead, the German favoured Luis Diaz, Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota in that role while Gakpo was tasked with playing, well, everywhere else. 

The majority of the time, the 25-year-old would play as a centre-forward. He did have a stint in midfield earlier on in the season though, something Klopp did regret. Gakpo was occasionally also used on the right side of the attack. 

Gakpo thrives on left wing

Last season though, he finished with three goals and three assists from his 12 appearances on the Liverpool left. Some of his best performances for the Reds arrived from that position. 

The game against Burnley in late December stands out. He was aggressive with and without the ball, he was progressive in his play and he claimed an assist. It was just a fairly dominant showing and one that reminded everyone why he was so highly sought-after during his time in Holland. 

That isn’t to say that his performances as a centre-forward were bad. They weren’t. He finished the season with 15 goal involvements across 27 outings from that position. He just wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as he is for the Netherlands. 

He did, however, contribute and he played his part for the team. What is interesting though is that Gakpo never seemed to dominate a game like he does when he’s on the left side of the attack. 

The Liverpool No18 is in contention to be named as the Player of the Tournament at Euro 2024. 

Can Gakpo take Euro form to Liverpool?

In the eyes of many Liverpool supporters, he’s in contention to be Arne Slot’s starting left-sided forward. But is his form at Euro 2024 transferable? More importantly, does it need to be?

For the Dutch so far, Gakpo has averaged 2.87 shots per 90. He’s got an Expected Goals average of 0.22 but an Expected Goals on Target average of 0.47. So, in a nutshell, he’s taking low-value efforts but his shot placement - he’s hitting the corners a lot of the time - is making up for it. 

He has an Expected Assists average of 0.45 while creating 2.87 chances per 90. The former PSV star is completing close to 90% of his dribbles while having 6.8 touches in the box. However, he’s averaging fewer than 20 passes. 

Cody Gakpo

Cody Gakpo

Boil all of that down and you have a player who is barely involved in play but then he’s pivotal in what the Dutch do in the final third. He’s more of a creator than a goal threat for the Netherlands but his shot placement is papering over the low-value attempts. 

Perhaps knockout football suits the versatile forward’s skill set more. He’s attempting more dribbles and has a higher success rate. Is it a slower tempo? Is it because teams can’t just sit deep and it creates more space for players like Gakpo to exploit? 

Gakpo more involved but less impactful for Liverpool

The fact is when he’s turning out for Liverpool, he’s more involved but, this might be harsh to say, he’s less impactful

For example, last season, he averaged 3.61 shots per 90 and had an Expected Goals average of 0.49. His Expected Goals on Target average was 0.38. So, this is the opposite of his numbers at international level. He’s having higher value attempts but his finishing is poorer. 

He’s creating fewer chances (1.37) and, of course, has a lower Expected Assists total (0.15). He’s completing fewer dribbles (65%) but he’s having a similar number of touches in the box while he’s also averaging more passes (over 30 per 90). 

Gakpo is more of a goal threat at club level - more shots and a higher xG - which is what you want for a forward. For the Netherlands, he has a bit more freedom. This helps with confidence which has no doubt had an impact on the luck he’s had at Euro 2024. 

There’s no right or wrong way to use the 25-year-old as there are pros and cons to both roles. Ultimately, it depends on what you want from the player but the idea he’s been misused at Anfield isn’t necessarily accurate. He’s just been used differently, in a way that suits the team more. 

Would Liverpool want him to replicate the Dutch numbers? I’m not sure. He’s running hot, the sample size isn’t the largest and he’s benefiting from the game state. It doesn’t scream sustainable, does it? 

Maybe there’s some middle ground between the two versions of Gakpo.

Maybe Slot is the man to merge the two and unlock the final form version of the 6ft3 forward. After all, the Dutch tactician worked wonders with Igor Paxiao, Santiago Gimenez and Yankuba Minteh while at Feyenoord. 

If he gets Gakpo firing and full of confidence, he could be a real handful for the Reds this season.

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