Luis Diaz out, Cody Gakpo in? Liverpool star's Euro 2024 form giving Arne Slot food for thought

Jurgen Klopp made very few errors as Liverpool manager, but his use of Cody Gakpo didn't always feel effective.

The Dutchman was invariably played in a central attacking role, leading the line with the likes of Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz either side of him, trying his best to emulate Roberto Firmino.

There were obvious comparisons to be made between Gakpo and the Liverpool legend, in terms of their subtle, elegant nature, but the former's impact has never come close to matching the latter's since arriving.

Of the Merseysiders' five excellent attacking options, the 25-year-old has invariably felt like the most low-key member, rather than a major player. And Klopp himself even admitted his mistake in how he used Gakpo

Euro 2024 has handed Gakpo an opportunity to showcase his talents on the international stage, at a time when the Reds' attack has been called into question.

Salah didn't look like the force of old during the latter stages of last season, Diaz and Darwin Nunez's finishing has left a lot to be desired, and Diogo Jota's injury problems are becoming a cause for concern.

Gakpo best Liverpool player at Euro 2024

Of all Liverpool's players being represented in Germany this summer, Gakpo has been the biggest positive to date, helping an unconvincing Netherlands side reach the knockout stages.

He has scored twice in his country's opening three matches, and the fact that he has shone as his side's best attacking player on the left wing is telling.

This is a role that Gakpo often played for PSV Eindhoven prior to joining Liverpool in January 2023, during a period that saw him register 105 goal contributions (55 goals and 50 assists) in 159 appearances for the Eredivisie giants.

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Luton Town FC LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 21, 2024: Liverpool s Cody Gakpo celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Luton Town FC at Anfield. Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda LIVERPOOL Anfield MERSEYSIDE ENGLAND PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK Copyright: xDavidxRawcliffex P2024-02-21-Liverpool_Luton-38

The Reds ace has looked far more at home drifting in from the left, cutting onto his deadly right foot and linking with the full-back, compared to receiving the ball into feet and finding himself in tight spaces.

It's not that Gakpo can't do a job leading the line - there have been impressive performances in that role sporadically - but he can't explode there.

Gakpo's Euros in numbers

His recent statistics highlight the level of impact he is having out wide for his country compared to at Liverpool centrally, with an average of 2.7 key passes per game coming his way in the opening three matches at the Euros.

In comparison, just 0.7 per game were achieved for the Reds in the Premier League last season, which is telling.

Similarly, 1.7 dribbles compared to 0.9 suggests he is a bigger threat driving at defenders, and his overall involvement in games is highlighted by averaging 2.3 tackles compared to 0.8.

Some have accused him of being anonymous for Liverpool, which has been justified at times, but that certainly can't be aimed at him in a Netherlands shirt.

Gakpo threatens Diaz

Gakpo simply looks more at home out wide, and a far more potent footballer, and Arne Slot will surely be watching his performances in Germany and feel that a left-sided berth is the best way to utilise him at Liverpool.

What that does mean is a potential conundrum involving Diaz, however, assuming the Colombian doesn't move to Barcelona between now and the start of next season.

Liverpool's No.7 has many great attributes, from quick feet to an admirable team ethic, but his end product has too often been erratic, with wasteful finishing proving costly in games last term.

In fairness, Diaz did improve as the campaign went on, finding the net in a more poacher-esque style, but you don't back him to finish a one-on-one, or truly trust him to play an inch-perfect final ball on the counter-attack.

Luis Diaz of Colombia

Luis Diaz of Colombia celebrates after Colombia scores a goal 0-1 during the friendly game between Spain and Colombia at London Stadium, London, England Richard Callis/SPP PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxBRAxMEX Copyright: xRichardxCallis/SPPx spp-en-RiCa-rmc220324-0916

In Gakpo, Liverpool arguably have a more ruthless left-sided player in their ranks - he just hasn't been able to fully excel there yet, through no choice of his own.

Rotation is a prominent aspect of the modern game, so it could be that Gakpo and Diaz are juggled in that position, both earning a lot of minutes, but the current evidence suggests that going with the former more often could be the way forward.

Slot given food for thought

This is only three games, however, and there is no question that the Dutchman has to perform more consistently in order to justify the clamour to be a regular starter for Liverpool.

Playing centrally can't be used as too big an excuse for some underwhelming performances, and given the technical ability he has, and his towering physique, he needs to be in a position where he is getting every ounce out of his potential.

There is a lingering feeling that that isn't the case currently, even though his languid style can sometimes unfairly work against him, but he has everything in his locker to be a superb wide option for Slot.

A last 16 meeting with Trent Alexander-Arnold's England has been avoided by Gakpo, with a semi-final showdown potentially in the offing eventually, and this is a great chance for the Liverpool attacker to continue standing out in the competition, going deep into the latter stages in the process.

He has shown Slot that Klopp was incorrect to use him predominantly as a central striker, and with doubts persisting about Diaz, the Reds' new boss could feel that he has a superior option in his squad already.

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