Cody Gakpo Liverpool debut: New signing to face Wolves in FA Cup as Virgil van Dijk warns of gap to Arsenal

By | January 6, 2023

Virgil van Dijk believes the addition of Cody Gakpo can help Liverpool close the gap to Premier League leaders Arsenal in the second half of the season.

The winger, who completed a £44 million/$53 million move from PSV on January 1, is in line for his debut against Wolves in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Van Dijk expects his fellow Netherlands international to have a big impact on a squad that is light on attacking options after injuries to Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota.

In fact, the defender is setting his sights as high as chasing down Arsenal, who are 16 points clear of Liverpool at the summit after 17 matches in 2022/23.

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Cody Gakpo Liverpool debut: Winger could face Wolves

Liverpool face Wolves in the FA Cup on January 7 and Gakpo is likely to make his debut in the match at Anfield.

The forward, who hasn’t played in domestic football since PSV lost to AZ on November 12, could be one of a few changes to Jurgen Klopp’s side given their hectic schedule and the fact they were beaten comfortably by Brentford last time out.

Klopp said to on Friday that Gakpo was “in contention” to feature, at least in the squad, saying: “First impressions of him are brilliant. With all these things, injured strikers and stuff like this, then you see a guy who is obviously a natural footballer on the pitch and knows where the goal is, it is a lift for everybody.

“So, that’s cool and somehow he will be involved, definitely.”

Van Dijk hopes to see his compatriot hit the ground running in red as Liverpool look to rescue their season.

The defender said: “Obviously, I can only speak for this moment but we are struggling with injuries and I said that after the last game, we want to do so well and we want to reach our targets and in this case it is Arsenal.

“We need quality players and we need players who can decide games and I think over time he can definitely be one of those players, hopefully. So, quality is always welcome at this football club.

“Obviously he is a great player first and foremost but he is also a great guy, personality-wise. He will be great for the group.

“He is calm, as well, and I think he can be very good for us. I feel like he will and he probably needs a bit of time.

“We will obviously give him that and hopefully our friends give him that too but I am not worried about that.”

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What position does Cody Gakpo play?

Whether or not Gakpo makes his Liverpool debut against Wolves, his first outings are likely to be on a left-hand side that has lost much of its threat following the loss of Diaz and Jota to injury.

However, Klopp regards the 23-year-old as a multifunctional player capable of covering all three attacking positions, which will only increase his chances of featuring regularly going forward.

Liverpool started the loss to Brentford with a front three of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah, and it is most likely that Oxlade-Chamberlain — who scored the Reds’ goal in that loss — will be the one to drop out for Gakpo against Wolves.

Whatever position he plays, in moving to a club competing in both the Premier League and Champions League, Gakpo will contend with a significant step up in quality going forward.

But he must also cope with the additional pressure that comes with representing one of Europe’s top sides, a test Van Dijk admits he does not know if his compatriot will pass.

He continued: “I think he will handle it fine but you have no idea what it is like until you are under this sort of pressure.

“He will have to keep his head down and look at what we are doing as a group and listen to the manager, listen to the players around you and don’t listen too much to the outside world because you can be one of the best in the world one day and one of the worst the next.

“It is never something in the middle, so he has to stay calm and I think he will do. He is that type of person. I will help him with that, if necessary.”

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Did Van Dijk convince Gakpo to join Liverpool?

Van Dijk had plenty of time to convince Gakpo of the merits of a move to Anfield during the pair’s involvement in the World Cup with the Netherlands.

However, the centre-back insists he did not need to do much more than give his honest view on how things have worked out for him personally since joining the club from Southampton.

He added: “It was just normal chats, it was not that I was trying to convince him but when the time was there I gave my honest opinion and that is something I can always do.

“It’s very positive because I have been at this club for five years now and I have won every trophy with this beautiful club and I know how much it means — each one.

“To play under this manager and with these guys, it is a joy and something he will enjoy as well.”