A writer walks into 90min Towers, tired from a weekend spent watching football, exhausting sessions of Pro Evolution Soccer and traveling across London to eat delicious pizza.
He dusts the loose ash accumulated from his dirty smoking habit off his jacket, empties his pockets on to his desk and takes a seat. Once the customary ‘Alright? How was your weekend?’ chat with those on his table concludes, he ventures across the office to fill a mug with piping hot tea.
A few minutes after his return, the football talk inevitably picks up. Tottenham’s game at Watford is quickly brushed aside, Manchester City’s draw with Crystal Palace gets a laugh but little more, before the conversation turns Sunday’s main event: Liverpool vs Manchester United at Anfield.
“I wanted to write something about Virgil van Dijk, and how he might just be the best central defender in the world,” the writer chirps.
One of his colleagues catches his eye. “I think we’ve done that, y’know pal,” he quips.
“Yeah, by all means write something, but we’ve had plenty of VVD love-ins and I doubt we need another one at the moment,” another chimes.
The writer, without the tired twinkle in his eye that was there when he first assaulted the stairs at 90min Towers, takes another punt.
“Mo Salah?” he adds, with little conviction.
“Done to death, mate.”
“Stop naming Liverpool players and just f****** write something, you writer.”
The writer eyeballs the ceiling for a brief moment, but the fluorescent lighting, so often damaging for his eyesight, diverts his gaze back to the numbing screen aligned with his laptop.
The twinkle reappears, distracting from the bags under his eyes, and a gentle smile gleams across his face, exposing a few yellow teeth. He wipes a smidge of dirt off one of his shoes, steps on to his desk using his chair as a makeshift ladder, picks up his scolding hot cup of tea, pours it over his head and looks at his bemused audience.
“Georginio Wijnaldum!” he shouts, as if he’s discovered a new chemical element to be added to the periodic table.
He may have gotten a little overexcited, but takes another punt regardless.
“He’s really good at football, probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves, and I can write it in a really pseudo-intellectual way that makes me come across like a pretentious melon!”
Suddenly, he’s not the only person standing up, and the judgemental silence filling the room barely seconds ago has dissipated. Instead, one person from the sales team starts clapping. Another from digital marketing joins in.
“Yeah bro! That’s like Eddie Vedder’s creative approach to writing the lyrics to ‘Black’, man! Vamos!” the global head of football and number one Pearl Jam fan worldwide screams.
“Our lord and saviour,” one member of the team yells. “Captain, leader, legend,” another screams, before asking the writer to hold and kiss his baby. “RUFF!” a visiting dog barks. The whole room is clapping. It may be a Monday morning, but the office to ready to get s*** done.
But what did that writer pen? Well, he was true to his word, and wrote about how brilliant Georginio Wijnaldum is, even though he may go under the radar when lined up among his more high profile Liverpool teammates.
For while he might not have been the player who rose highest to nod in a wicked Trent Alexander-Arnold cross or scampered half the pitch to put the seal on the 2-0 win against United, Wijnadum’s contribution was again integral in laying the platform for the Anfield side’s 21st Premier League win of the season.
Liverpool’s midfield is not built for one of the three to bag a combined 20 goals and assists each season. Instead, it’s filled with technically gifted, mobile and hardworking players who press until their lungs burst, with each capable of providing the sliding pass through to the side’s esteemed front three or the full backs, the latter of whom basically act as auxiliary forwards at this point.
But Wijnaldum has that skill, comparably closest to prime Mousa Dembele at Tottenham, of keeping the ball glued to his feet in tight areas before finding that outward pass. And, maybe most importantly for the neutrals who’ve watched and enjoyed Liverpool this season, he does it with a dash of panache.
Twice on Sunday he made United‘s players look foolish while more importantly keeping the ball for Liverpool. Fred was sent for hot dog first up with a cheeky nutmeg, before the Dutchman repeated the trick by mugging off a charging Harry Maguire with ease. What Maguire was doing charging out of defence against a counter attacking Liverpool we’ll never know, but the piece of skill was still elegantly pulled off.
Liverpool may not have enjoyed as much success down the right hand side as usual, with Alexander-Arnold having one of his quieter games under the watch of both Brandon Williams and Luke Shaw, but the Reds were more effective on the other side, where Wijnaldum would often pop up in space. That’s how his disallowed goal came about.
Thankfully for Jurgen Klopp, Wijnaldum’s influence in recent weeks has put to bed any doubts that Liverpool could struggle without Fabinho, who coincidentally made his return from injury as a late substitute. Sure, their roles might be inherently different – Fabinho as the deep blocker and tackler and Wijnaldum as the steam train-esque ball carrier – but Wijnaldum’s partnership with Jordan Henderson has also ensured the Merseyside outfit have been fine without their Brazilian juggernaut.
Henderson – who’s in the form of his life – might have been the best player on the pitch on Sunday, such was his industry and tenacity on the defensive side, and he alongside Wijnaldum helps provide the platform for Liverpool’s attacking stars to make the difference.
Their consistency also means Klopp has the freedom to shuffle his pack over the third midfield spot, which was occupied by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on Sunday and filled by Naby Keita, James Milner, Adam Lallana and obviously Fabinho at various other stages. Each of those players bring something different in attack, but all are happy acting as runners.
Wijnaldum may actually be sacrificed over the next few weeks if Fabinho is brought back into the starting team, but the 29-year-old’s recent contribution has helped keep Liverpool’s foot firmly on the gas as they chase a first ever Premier League title.
When they do reach that milestone, it’ll be more down to their engine in midfield than some would have you believe.