The industrious and dynamic Dutchman should have, in theory, fitted seamlessly into Mauricio Pochettino’s system.
Embarking on a new chapter of his career, Georginio Wijnaldum’s summer switch from Liverpool to Paris Saint-Germain seemed to be an ideal move for all parties.
As it turns out, however, a dream move to a club seemingly destined to finally achieve Champions League glory has developed into a nightmare for the former Reds ace.
It’s important to note that there have been occasional Wijnaldum highlights in his short time at PSG. The brace against RB Leipzig that put the gloss on an admittedly brilliant individual European display; the assist for Kylian Mbappe’s match-winning strike against Bordeaux in November; the last-gasp headed equaliser that salvaged a point against Lens last month; and – oh no, wait, that’s it.
In the first half of his maiden campaign with the Parisian giants, Wijnaldum has, like the club as a whole, severely underwhelmed and looked utterly uncomfortable – despite playing around some of the finest footballers money (or free transfers) can acquire.
And his torridly discorded few months in the first half of the season were epitomised by his performance in PSG’s first Ligue 1 game back after the mid-season winter break.
As Pochettino’s men laboured to a ponderous 1-1 draw with disappointing mid-table languishers Lyon, Wijnaldum was comfortably the least imaginative, least influential and least interested presence in the Parisian lineup – and given the displays of nearly all wearing navy blue on the night, that’s saying something.
Starting on the right wing, the Dutchman struggled to even touch the ball in the first half. Unable to manoeuvre himself into space with the usually canny spatial awareness he demonstrates, Wijnaldum went into the break having registered just six touches – not the creative buzz expected of him, to say the least.
Admittedly, he was much more involved after the break courtesy of a change in shape implemented by Pochettino. Switching to a diamond in midfield, the visiting side were able to show a glimmer of authority and control in midfield and, playing as a free-roaming central midfielder (the position in which he dazzled for Liverpool and continuously thrives for his national side), Wijnaldum saw a lot more of the ball.
That change in fortune, however, went in vain. What he did with said possession was calamitously passive and criminally unimaginative – an apt summary of most performances he’s put in wearing a PSG shirt.
And what compounded his woeful display was that young substitute Edouard Michut starred in a 27-minute cameo and did what the Dutchman simply couldn’t in 83 minutes. The 18-year-old was the bright spark that Pochettino desperately needed from midfield.
Indeed, on just his second ever appearance in Ligue 1 – the first lasting a sole minute – the France Under-19 international showed the tenacity, thrust and clinical movement to create space for himself between midfield and attack before setting up PSG’s 75th-minute equaliser. His cut back swept through the Lyon box before being scuffed past Anthony Lopes by Thilo Kehrer.
It was yet another undeserved point-salvaging goal for Pochettino’s side. And in another uninspiring display for the league-leaders, Wijnaldum once again looked totally and completely out-of-character. In truth, the 31-year-old’s performance on the night was an embarrassment. But, unfortunately, it’s only the tip of a catastrophic iceberg.
His future is the subject of much debate at the moment and, as the January transfer window rolls on, there will inevitably be continued interest in his undeniably brilliant services as he remains unsatisfied and unhappy at the club.
So after what has been a truly terrible first half to his debut season in Paris, Wijnaldum should look to leave the French capital – whether permanently or temporarily – if only to regain his mojo.