Ryan Gravenberch is merging Plan A and B with Liverpool performances

“He’s not even halfway where he can be, but it’s really promising.”

It is safe to say Ryan Gravenberch certainly impressed manager Jurgen Klopp during Liverpool’s 5-1 win over Toulouse in the Europa League.

Speaking to TNT Sports, the German tactician heaped praise on the 21-year-old Dutchman, saying: “A good player, huh? I told him when he came off, nice player! I’m so happy for him that he starts really enjoying his football again. You can see it. His first touch is incredible, how strong he is in tight spaces.”

Gravenberch capped off his eye-catching showing with a goal. It may not have been the best of his career but was the exclamation point his performance deserved.

READ MORE: Liverpool 5-1 Toulouse – Player Ratings

The former Bayern Munich midfielder reacted quickest to Darwin Nuñez’s effort cannoning back off the post. He then showed great composure to round the goalkeeper before firing a left-footed effort into the bottom corner.

It was his only recognised goal involvement of the match but he played a significant role in goals two and three for the Reds. In both instances, he kicked things off with a slaloming run from midfield, carrying the ball into the final third before picking out Curtis Jones with a pass. The number 17 had two efforts. The first was deflected over the bar for a corner. It was from this corner that Wataru Endo headed Liverpool back into the lead. The second effort was blocked but ricocheted back off the Scouser and into the path of Darwin Nunez. The chaotic Uruguayan smashed a left-footed effort into the roof of the net from a difficult angle.

While he wasn’t able to add to his assists tally, he certainly left his mark on this match.

Replaced after 70 minutes, Gravenberch finished the game having had four shots – the joint-highest along with Darwin. He also created three chances – a figure that only Jones (four) could better - and he completed 96% of his passes. The latter two stats here are impressive because chance creators usually turn the ball over an awful lot due to the nature of their role. They force passes that might not be on. Yet Gravenberch managed to progress the ball while retaining it, a difficult balancing act.

Liverpool's Ryan Gravenberch during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: Saturday October 21, 2023.

The fleet-footed Dutch maestro also completed 100% of his attempted dribbles, once again highlighting just how press-resistant he is. The one-time Ajax starlet put in a shift without the ball as well, winning two of his three dribbles, recovering the ball on five occasions and coming out on top in six of his nine duels.

In his earlier outings for the Reds, he was a little too loose in possession. It has an impact on the balance of the team. The job of the left-sided midfielder had primarily been that of a facilitator. Gravenberch wasn’t so passive. He was having a high number of efforts and he was turning the ball over far too much – completing between 70-80% of his passes.

READ MORE: Impact player Ryan Gravenberch gives Jurgen Klopp an intriguing option 

If his performances had remained consistent, he would be a Plan B to the usual Plan A on that side of the pitch. Someone who would come into the team when you expected Liverpool to completely dominate the ball and wanted more of a goal threat in midfield.

But his past two outings have shown he has the ability to merge the two roles.

Against Everton in the Merseyside derby, he completed 97% of his attempted passes, created one chance and had one effort. Against Toulouse, he found a teammate 96% of the time and, as mentioned above, had four efforts and created three chances. He was able to still involve himself heavily in final phase acts while also keeping possession. For a team looking for complete control, the latter metric is key for a midfielder.

The fact he’s already evolved that side of his game in such a short space of time is hugely encouraging. It also gives Klopp something to think about over the coming weeks when Jones is back from suspension.

There are things that Jones can do that Gravenberch can’t and vice versa. But what is more valuable for the Reds at this time?

It is going to be interesting to watch it all unfold. Liverpool have two players who both have genuine cases to start as the left-sided midfielder and there's still more to come from both.

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