What Is Cody Gakpo’s Role?
There is a fine line between when a versatile footballer is either a success story for his club or a player lacking a definitive role within the starting eleven. Below are some examples of Liverpool players (in the Premier League era) who have enjoyed varying degrees of success in their roles, due in part to their capacity as the squad’s Swiss Army Knife.
A player who was destined to become England’s greatest ever right-back. The former Crewe man was once described by Ryan Giggs as the toughest opponent he had ever faced until a horrendous list of injuries scuppered the Liverpool right-back’s destiny. Eventually, Roy Evans tasked him into a left wing-back position to facilitate his Irish teammate, Jason McAteer, onto the right-hand side. The 8-cap England international saw his Anfield career end prematurely in 1999 before the severity of his injuries forced him to retire that same year, at just 27 years old.
This is a Liverpool legend that was promoted through the academy as a striker, who would later enter the senior squad as a tough-tackling holding midfielder. After a spell as either a dependable right or left back in the Reds’ first team, eventually, Rafael Benítez moved him into the center of defense to partner the brilliant Sami Hyypiä. Later, the one-club man would form a solid base with the superb Daniel Agger. Carra was the vocal lieutenant to Steven Gerrard’s skipper while enjoying a superb Anfield career until his retirement. His versatility was important throughout his early years as Liverpool fought for silverware both at home and abroad.
There were so many question marks over the signing of Newcastle’s attacking midfielder. This was a gifted Dutchman who had played most of his football from the right-hand side of midfield, yet Jürgen Klopp was able to create the perfect controlling entity in his midfield three. With a wonderful off-ball presence and in-game intelligence, Gini will forever remain one of the unsung heroes (to some anyway) of his time at Anfield, with the aftermath of his premature departure showing just how valuable he was. A wonderful system player that selflessly harnessed his versatility for both club and country.
Not until the appointment of the popular Rafael Benítez was the world-class attributes of Liverpool’s captain truly exploited to their fullest. It was most certainly England that took advantage of the Anfield legend’s versatility by continually shifting him around the Three Lions midfield. Rafa was able to deploy the destructive number 8 into both the right-wing and attacking midfield positions to unleash the uncontrollable threat that so many teams failed to maintain. Later, Brendan Rodgers would place him as the central playmaker (with runners either side), which nearly won that elusive Premier League title in the era year of Luis Suárez. His versatility stopped him from becoming England’s greatest ever player.
The goal-scoring Dutchman arrived as a central striker when the Reds passed on the chance to sign the mercurial Bulgarian talent, Dimitar Berbatov. Dirk became a cult hero that was eventually re-tasked into a right-wing position to facilitate Fernando Torres. The former PSV attacker’s endless running and work rate saw him produce some very good performances, yet his versatility ultimately limited what he was brought to the club to become.
Arrived as a devastating right inside forward, who moved to the left once Mohamed Salah was signed from Roma. The former Southampton man was a powerhouse of destruction and was the league’s best player when the Reds finally won the English League under Klopp. In his final season with the club, Sadio replaced his long-term forward line partner, Roberto Firmino, as the central striker. This move allowed our current Colombian flyer, Luis Díaz, to take on the left-wing role, thereby cementing Sadio’s brilliance across the entirety of the Reds’ forward line during his Anfield stay.
What Is Cody Gakpo’s Best Position…?
I would say that the false nine position best suits the game of the Dutchman more than any other right now. I also believe that the similarities to his predecessor, Bobby Firmino, translate better with a free-scoring Mohamed Salah outside of him. The only issue with that, however, is with Darwin and Dominik Szoboszlai primed to wreak havoc in those central attacking areas, I believe now is the time to build the 6ft 4inch player into what is needed for the next few years, rather than last season. In a 4-3-3, I have no issue with the former PSV man operating as the facilitator between two outside forwards when that system is required.
My preference is that this becomes the secondary system of play, with the primary being a 4-2-3-1. In this latter formation, I could absolutely see Dom and Cody sharing the responsibility of that second striker role, with the other always able to find a home on either flank through a frenzied campaign. Both Salah and Luis would fit well into this system, which would have Núñez leading the line, with Diogo Jota as his backup. I believe the next version of this team needs an out-and-out center forward, which our winter signing is not. Gakpo can progress from deep and work off those around and ahead of him, though should not be confused with becoming one of the 8’s in a 4-3-3. In essence, we have the blueprint to create a powerful Yaya Touré type, one who can use his frame and strength to penetrate and destroy. Alongside the Hungarian captain, it would be a tantalizing sight to see the pair in tandem.
Decisions must be made about a few players and their roles, which make this season the most crucial in Klopp’s Anfield stay.
Cody Gakpo appreciation post 👏
Arrived at #LFC as a winger, became the Bobby successor and has been a crucial part of our midfield in the opening two games this season.
Brilliant signing and a fantastic player 🇳🇱 pic.twitter.com/mikkYC38Et
— Empire of the Kop (@empireofthekop) August 20, 2023