Liverpool has discovered its own Jack Grealish. He provides Jürgen Klopp with everything Pep Guardiola provides for a fraction of the price
Liverpool as a team does not commit many fouls. It has only won 295 games in the Premier League this season.
Only West Ham (285) and Manchester United (263) have lower totals in the Premier League. But that doesn’t mean the Reds don’t have free-kick-happy players.
Cody Gakpo, a January signing, is one of them. He was among the top 10 Eredivisie players for fouls drawn per game (2.1) during the first half of the season with PSV, and this pattern has continued at Anfield.
Gakpo has committed 24 Premier League fouls since joining Liverpool, more than any other Reds player. Surprisingly, he already holds the fourth-highest foul total in the group with 24, trailing only Thiago (25), Harvey Elliott (25), and Mohamed Salah (31).
Instead, if you look at it on a per-90 basis, Luis Daz, who missed most of the season due to injury, takes the lead with 2.09, followed by Gakpo (1.74) and Thiago (1.8) in that order.
Gakpo is among the top 40 players in the Premier League, if we broaden our focus to include the entire league. For comparison, Jack Grealish of Manchester City is in the lead with 3.35, followed by Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace and Jordan Ayew of the Eagles in second and third.
It might not seem like winning fouls have intrinsic value. They frequently halt promising attacks, leaving you with bruised shins. However, it also has a number of benefits.
At its most fundamental, it can release Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, who represent the best dead-ball threat in the league. The Reds (79) have produced more chances from these circumstances than only three other Premier League teams: Newcastle (97), Brentford, and Leeds United (both 89).
In addition, they can be used as a game-management tool, letting teams release tension and squander crucial time. Given that Liverpool has won its last five games by a single goal, creating some tense finishes, this has been especially helpful recently.
Finally, fouls can, of course, result in the opposition receiving a yellow card. Gakpo has received twice as many cautions since joining Liverpool as any other player, making him something of a specialist in this area.
Gakpo carded both Lisandro Martnez and Scott McTominay during the historic 7-0 victory over Manchester United, which featured two of these incidents.
These were heated challenges during a rout, but more frequently, we witness tactical takedowns as the Dutchman sprints away from an opponent.
Back for Brentford On Saturday, Rico Henry was arrested in these circumstances, and even Son Heung-min, who is known for being quick, had his name taken after deflecting a charging Gakpo.
When he stopped the forward’s trademark driving counter at the beginning of April, Rodri of Manchester City was fortunate to avoid being sent off for receiving a second yellow. As a result, red shirts surrounded the referee furiously.
Several times this season, Pep Guardiola has praised his holding midfielder as one of the best in the league, and the Manchester City manager was rendered speechless following a victory over Crystal Palace in the previous campaign. Rodri might have left him with “no words,” but Gakpo seemed to have his phone number.
Rodri was exonerated at the time, but it won’t be long before Gakpo takes part in a reprimand. Because of how risky his runs are, the opposition is forced into tenuous defensive positions, but for the time being they consider it a worthwhile sacrifice.
Of course, the 24-year-old’s contribution isn’t quite this subdued. Despite joining the team only halfway through the season, he has also contributed one more goal to the Premier League than Grealish (who has three goals and four assists).
He is arguably a better option than what Guardiola has at his disposal because he is both a foul magnet and an output merchant. Gakpo is a tremendous value when you consider the $126 million (£100 million/€113 million) Manchester City spent to snag Grealish.