Words by Aziz Khalil – follow him on Twitter @azizk47
. Written for NUFC360
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Newcastle United are no longer the only EPL team without a signing in the summer transfer window. Steve McClaren urged fans to be patient because the board and coaching staff wanted to ensure they were bringing in the right type of players, with character and top work ethic. The sort of players who do not see Newcastle as a stepping stone to build their name and move onto bigger clubs; they want to bring consistency and a culture change to the club. As most players have learnt, the grass isn’t always greener; ask Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Débuchy, Loic Rémy, Demba Ba and Andy Carroll, for example. How do you change the culture of a team? Well, for starters, you sign the captain of the Eredivisie league champion in back to back seasons. Last summer it was Siem De Jong from Ajax, and yesterday it was Georginio Wijnaldum from PSV Eindhoven.
The 3rd most expensive NUFC signing of all-time, Georginio Wijnaldum (pronounced Why-Nahl-Dum) was officially introduced on July 11th at a rumored fee of £14.5m. The 24 year-old midfielder was also on the Netherlands World Cup team last summer, scoring 1 goal and appeared in all 7 matches. Last season, Wijnaldum appeared in 33 matches for PSV, scoring 14 goals with 3 assists and was named Dutch Footballer of the Year. Born in Rotterdam, he came through the Feyenoord youth club and was with their senior team from 2007-2011. In the summer of 2011, PSV came knocking at the door of Feyenoord, who were having financial troubles and sold Wijnaldum for €5M. Eventually was named captain of PSV before the 2013-2014 season and a year later led them to their first championship since 2008.
Wijnaldum mentioned in his interview after being unveiled at St James Park, that fellow countryman Tim Krul has been pleading for Georginio to join Newcastle United for the past 8 years. Other Netherlands internationals on NUFC include Siem De Jong, Daryl Janmaat, Vurnon Anita and the aforementioned Krul; who will all hopefully make it an easy transition for Wijnaldum in the North-East. I went back and watched tape of the Netherlands matches in the World Cup and a certain #20 (Wijnaldum) kept standing out (for good purposes). Strong on the ball, great pace and always anticipates the play two steps ahead. Scored a beautiful goal vs Brazil in the 3rd place match, set up by our very own Daryl Janmaat!
It’s easy to watch YouTube clips and highlights of an individual player because they show nothing but the positives. I wanted to find out more, to do more research on the pros and cons of Wijnaldum’s game. I reached out to two PSV and Eredivisie watchers to help me assess his play and both had similar thoughts on Wijnaldum. SjorsvanVeen (@Sjors_vanVeen on Twitter) told me:
“Wijnaldum is a huge signing for NUFC, has power, pace and is a very complete midfielder. Favourite position is the number ten but can also play on the wing. The youngest debutant for Feyenoord at the age of 16, great prospect and plays box to box. Played the number 10 position at PSV for 4 years and was going to sign at PSG in January but had an agreement with Depay that they would win the Eredivisie league and both move in the summer. His weaknesses are that he’s got a low conversion rate, has a hard time finishing and a wild shot. Needs to work on that”.
Willem Vernooji (@WillemVernooij on Twitter) assessed Wijnaldum’s game by saying: “(GW) Often played the CAM but can play the CM, played there for Netherlands. Has a great sense to get in the box”. I asked them both to compare him to a player right now and both had the same exact answer “Simply put, there is no comparison; a player with pace, strong number 10 in very good condition, who can score. He is an extremely unique player and that is in fact a good thing. Let him make his own destiny and have others be compared to Wijnaldum”. The closest comparison I got was Blaise Matuidi or a Jonathan De Guzman without the free kick abilities.
It is interesting that both bloggers say he’s a number 10 and plays the CAM. NUFC already have that type of player with Siem De Jong. Steve McClaren likes to play a 4-3-3 with 2 holding midfielders (4-2-3-1), meaning the top of the triangle is already occupied by De Jong. So, where does Wijnaldum fit? Well, we sort of got a hint from McClaren after last night’s friendly against Gateshead. According to Mark Douglas, Wijnaldum is going to be playing a big part in the “Double 6” formation, and he will occupy one of the holding midfield spots, likely next to Jack Colback. “It’s a position most German sides use and translates into a box-to-box midfielder, prepared to work in the space between two penalty areas”, The Chronicle. “Basically, he’ll be playing the type of role made famous by Yaya Toure, starting from deep but getting forward to support the front men”, WhatCulture. Moussa Sissoko also played on the right hand side of the attacking midfield three in the friendly vs Gateshead, which is another hint that Wijnaldum will be one of the holding midfielders. After all, Wijnaldum (or Gini) does have experience playing that CM position in the World Cup with the Netherlands; it will be familiar for him.
Getting Wijnaldum over the line is a perfect example of what Steve McClaren said to fans in the e-mail on how important it is to get the right players through the door. This is a great first step and a fresh perspective for NUFC and their attempt to change the team identity and get rid of the club stigma. Bringing in a captain of a squad with top class character and international experience is massive. Watch Wijnaldum’s reaction once he enters St. James Park, it really speaks volume on his humbleness, modesty and attitude. Hopefully this is the first of many signings that bring with them a fresh perspective, leadership abilities and willingness to represent Newcastle with pride and honour. Gini wants to be here, he wants to wear the black and white and I think NUFC fans will witness that first hand this upcoming season.