Talking Tactics

Can Gakpo seize his chance up front against Luton?

By Adrian Clarke 18 Feb 2024

Adrian Clarke looks at what Dutchman offers as he aims to step up during Liverpool's injury crisis

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Liverpool’s injury crisis presents an opportunity for Cody Gakpo to finally get his Premier League campaign up and running, starting with an eye-catching display against Luton Town


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Until now it has been a frustrating season for the Netherlands international, who has only started successive top-flight matches once since August.  

He has been dropped in and out of Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI and is yet to complete 90 minutes outside of cup games, so it has been hard for the 24-year-old to find his flow.  

When Gakpo has been brought on 23/24
  Premier League
Starts 10
45-60 mins  4
61-80 mins  4
81-90 mins  2
Full match  0
Average time on pitch  64.9 mins 
What Gakpo offers 

Gakpo has not imposed himself on matches as well as he would have hoped, often finding himself on the periphery compared to Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez

But he presses well, he runs with the ball more smoothly than Klopp’s alternative striker options and he wins a greater number of aerial duels.  

The Dutchman’s slippery movement and ability to beat defenders with a dribble could now be particularly useful as he looks to create space and cause problems for Luton’s compact back three at Anfield.  

Gakpo v Liverpool forwards per 90
Player Poss. won final third Dribbles completed Aerial duels won
Gakpo 1.11 1.67 1.48
Nunez 0.80 0.74 1.23
Salah 0.80 0.96 0.20
Jota 0.51 1.20 1.45

In terms of offering a consistent goal threat, Gakpo is behind the likes of Nunez, Jota and Salah, who have all scored goals at a quicker rate than the former PSV Eindhoven man, who averages one every 242.7 minutes.  

They also have more frequent touches inside the opposition box, averaging over eight apiece per 90 compared with Gakpo’s 4.82.  

If he gets the chance to start against the Hatters as Liverpool’s principle centre-forward, it will be imperative he stamps his mark by regularly testing the visitors in and around their goal.  

All-purpose finishing 

Gakpo, who ran through to score a lovely goal with his left foot in Saturday’s 4-1 success at Brentford, is a very adaptable finisher. 

In all competitions he has scored 10 times for Liverpool this season, with four of those coming in the League Cup and two coming in the UEFA Europa League.  

He has split those goals equally between strikes with his left and right foot, and the nature of his finishing has also varied between first-time hits and using extra touches to manoeuvre the ball prior to shooting.  

Gakpo's range of finishes
Finish Goals
Left foot  5
Right foot 5
One touch 5
Multiple touches 5
Sharp in tight areas 

The Netherlands star has a striker’s nose inside the box, naturally anticipating where a ball might land.  

He showed that when darting towards the near and far posts respectively to meet low crosses from Salah against Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers, as shown in the images below.  

Gakpo v Wolves
Gakpo goal v LASK
Touch and turn 

Rob Edwards’s side will be wary of Gakpo’s runs towards the far post on Wednesday night, and they would also be advised to get tight enough to stop him turning inside the area.  

The 24-year-old marksman is dangerous with his back to goal, as he likes to shift the ball onto his stronger right foot before hitting a shot on the swivel.  

His Premier League goal against Tottenham Hotspur and his strike at home to Leicester City in the League Cup both showcased this attribute excellently.  

On both occasions he controlled the ball with his back to goal before turning 180 degrees on the spot to hit his shot while rotating his body.  

Gakpo goal v Spurs
Gakpo goal v Leicester City

Gakpo, who scored seven league goals in 17 starts from January onwards in 2022/2023, will not be satisfied with his current return.  

After reserving most of his better performances for cup matches, he will surely be extremely determined to grab this Premier League opportunity with both hands.  

As a proven finisher, he perhaps just needs a longer run in the Liverpool side to show what he can do.  

With Jota sidelined, a start and a goal against Luton could set Gakpo up for a strong finish to this campaign.   

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