With Cody Gakpo looking so dangerous on the left of the Netherlands attack, we look at his numbers at Euro 2024 and ask if Liverpool boss Arne Slot can learn lessons from the forward’s form for his country.

They say a club should never judge a potential signing on their performance in an international tournament.

An individual can look amazing for three or four weeks, aided by their international teammates and the unpredictability of tournament football, before flattering to deceive at club level.

Liverpool have experienced it before. The excitement of signing El-Hadji Diouf shortly after he had tormented world and European champions France at the 2002 World Cup, only for the Senegalese attacker to score just six goals in 80 appearances for the Reds. Czech Republic striker Milan Baros was the top scorer at Euro 2004 (5 goals), but never really established himself as the main man for Liverpool, scoring 11 goals in 42 games in 2004-05.

They’ve had success stories too, though, notably Patrik Berger joining after Euro 96 and the Czech midfielder becoming a fan favourite at Anfield almost immediately.

Just a few weeks after the 2022 World Cup, Cody Gakpo arrived from PSV after impressing for the Netherlands in Qatar. Of course, Liverpool didn’t just sign him for his three goals at the World Cup; they had been scouting Gakpo for a while and got their man in January 2023.

The 25-year-old has largely been a positive addition for the Premier League giants, scoring 23 goals in 79 games in his season and a half on Merseyside, but it’s safe to say that Liverpool fans don’t entirely recognise the man who has led the way for the Netherlands on their way to the quarter-finals of Euro 2024.

Gakpo’s goal against Romania on Tuesday was his third of the tournament, making him joint-top scorer with three other players heading into the last eight in Germany.

Gakpo xG Euro 2024 after 4 games

Across the 2022 World Cup and Euro 2024, the only European player with more goals than Gakpo (6) is Kylian Mbappé (9).

All six of Gakpo’s strikes have come in different matches; the only Dutch players to score in more different games at major tournaments are Dennis Bergkamp (10), Robin van Persie (8), and Wesley Sneijder (7).

It is not that he is always so productive for his country, though. Gakpo seems to particularly step up at major tournaments, with six of his 12 goals for the Oranje coming at either the Euros or the World Cup. Among all players with 7+ goals for the Netherlands, only Johnny Rep scored a higher share of those at major tournaments (8 of 12 goals).

Gakpo has looked a constant threat on the left of the Dutch attack and provided an assist for Donyell Malen to double their lead in the 3-0 victory over Romania, getting past Radu Dragusin on the byline before prodding the ball back to Malen to tap in.

In doing so, Gakpo became the youngest Netherlands player (25 years, 56 days old) to score and assist in a knockout match in a major tournament since Marco van Basten in the final of the 1988 European Championship (23y 238d).

That assist for Malen proved that it has not just been about goals for Gakpo. He has also created the most chances from open play at the tournament, along with Turkey’s Ferdi Kadioglu (both 11), and has created the most big chances along with Hungary’s Roland Sallai and Spain’s Lamine Yamal (all 4).

Gakpo chances created Euro 2024 after 4 games

There have been certain similarities between each of Gakpo’s Euro 2024 goals. His first came in the Netherlands’ opening game against Poland, collecting the ball slightly left of centre before dribbling to the edge of the box and seeing a deflected shot find the net. His second was in the final group game against Austria, cutting inside from the left of the penalty area and finishing low to the goalkeeper’s left. His strike against Romania also involved cutting inside, but this time his fierce shot was low to the goalkeeper’s right.

Shift and shoot is the name of the game, with his running and shooting style as well as his height giving him a certain resemblance to Marcus Rashford when the Manchester United man is in full flow. While Rashford didn’t have a great 2023-24 campaign, England boss Gareth Southgate might be looking at the impact of Gakpo and wondering if he made the right call leaving his own experienced attacker at home.

The interesting thing about Gakpo playing on the left for his country is that he has rarely done so for his club. Former Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp mostly used him in a central attacking role and even on rare occasions as a central midfielder.

Cody Gakpo position minutes 23-24
Cody Gakpo position minutes Euro 2024

Klopp did admit in February after a period where Gakpo had struggled for form that he had been to blame, suggesting that he had realised midfield was not the player’s best position.

“Cody had a bit of a struggle in between the season, it was more my fault,” Klopp said. “We spoke about ‘can Cody play a midfield position for us?’. Yes, he can in different moments. Is it his position? I would say no.

“The offensive part of the role he can definitely play, but with the defensive things which he was not used to, that cost him a bit of confidence in moments, you could see that.”

Despite his selection in central roles, though, Gakpo still had a tendency to drift to the left for Liverpool, as shown by his heat map below.

Cody Gakpo heat map 23-24

The player had predominantly played off the left for PSV prior to moving to Anfield, though he was used as a striker by then-Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal at the 2022 World Cup. However, his current national team manager certainly believes the left is the best place for his talents.

“First, his position is on the left side,” Koeman insisted to reporters after the win over Romania. “He is really dangerous if he comes one-against-one with the right full-back. Inside, outside, he has his qualities, he’s strong.

“He’s playing at a great level at this tournament. He’s maybe the [most] important player until now, and I hope that the rest can come to that level.

“Yes, he can play as a striker, but he has shown today that he’s most dangerous from the left side.”

It will be interesting to see where new Liverpool head coach and fellow Dutchman, Arne Slot, will use Gakpo.

At Feyenoord, Slot played with a front three as Koeman does with the national team. It therefore seems quite possible that he will at least experiment with Gakpo on the left.

Slot had Igor Paixão and Luka Ivanusec as his primary options in that role last season, who scored 12 goals in 45 games and seven goals in 38 games for Feyenoord in all competitions, respectively. Paixão averaged 3.1 shots per 90 minutes, 1.5 chances created from open play and 3.0 dribbles attempted, while Ivanusec averaged 2.0 shots per 90, 1.8 chances created from open play and 4.3 dribbles attempted.

By comparison, Gakpo scored 16 goals in 53 games for Liverpool in 2023-24, averaging 3.2 shots per 90, 1.5 chances created from open play and 2.5 dribbles attempted, meaning he was closer to Paixão in terms of output, though obviously his came primarily from a central position. At Euro 2024, albeit from a much smaller sample of four games, Gakpo has averaged 2.9 shots per game, 2.9 chances created from open play and 2.1 dribbles attempted.

Gakpo attacking carries 2023-24
Gakpo attacking carries Euro 2024

The left of the attack is an area where Liverpool are well-stocked. Luis Díaz was the main man on that side last season, while Diogo Jota and Darwin Núñez can also play there. Links to Newcastle United’s Anthony Gordon also persist, even if a deal for the England international seems unlikely this summer.

With the form he is showing in Germany, though, Gakpo will certainly be catching the attention of Slot.

At his first press conference as Liverpool head coach on Friday, Slot said: “Cody has [had] a very good tournament, like his last one; the [2022] World Cup was really good for him as well. He has been impressive until now and I can only hope for him that he can continue doing so in the upcoming games.”

You should never judge a player solely on an international tournament performance.

This might be Cody Gakpo showing his true potential, though. Ronald Koeman, Arne Slot and fans of the Netherlands and Liverpool will certainly hope so.

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