Ronald Koeman’s Insight on Cody Gakpo at Liverpool and How Darwin Núñez’s Experience Confirms It

Ronald Koeman has suggested that Liverpool’s struggles last season impacted Cody Gakpo’s performance, a point that has already been illustrated by one of his teammates.

The international break has proven to be a significant turning point for Cody Gakpo, offering much-needed relief. The Liverpool forward managed to score twice in two matches for the Netherlands against Greece and Ireland, contributing to his country’s qualification efforts for Euro 2024.

This return to form is a major boost for the Reds as they prepare to face Wolves this weekend. Gakpo had a somewhat frustrating start to the season, going without a goal in his first four games and even finding himself on the bench in Liverpool’s most recent match against Aston Villa.

His current form echoes the challenges he faced when initially joining Liverpool at the beginning of the year. This issue was highlighted by Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman before the Ireland game. Koeman stated, “You have to understand that Gakpo is still a young player. When he first joined Liverpool, the team was struggling, and that made it difficult for him to make an immediate impact. If you join a team that is performing well, you have a chance to enter when the time is right, but Liverpool needed a quick solution. You have to give him time to develop and adapt to the Premier League because it’s a different level. I know from my time in England that the intensity is much higher than what he was used to in Holland, but he’s young, and he will learn and improve. He has a great future, and you can see his quality.”

One might be tempted to defend Liverpool against Koeman’s theory, as Gakpo didn’t struggle for too long before ending the previous season on a high note. However, the truth is that Koeman is correct, and Jürgen Klopp agrees. Klopp used a similar explanation to clarify Darwin Núñez’s difficulties last season, saying in April, “It’s not helpful to go through a debut season when the entire team is struggling. How can a striker shine when the whole team is struggling? It’s not impossible, but he’s had some exceptional moments.”

Despite Liverpool’s apparent improvement this season, Gakpo has still faced challenging circumstances. During the preseason, the 24-year-old had to adapt to a makeshift number eight role due to unexpected departures of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho. He continued in this role at the start of the new season against Chelsea and Bournemouth, but it was evident that this position did not bring out his best.

Finally, in the Newcastle game, Gakpo had the opportunity to return to the front three, but he lacked the same level of game time that his fellow forwards had during the summer. Essentially, he was starting from scratch.

The international break came at the perfect time for Gakpo, allowing him to accumulate more minutes in his preferred number nine role and, more importantly, get back on the scoresheet.

With Núñez returning from South America later than most of the squad, Gakpo may have the chance to carry his newfound form into Liverpool’s return to Premier League action. We could soon witness the player who ended last season in superb form once again.

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