Shaqiri Proving to be Key Asset4 min read
Great start – but could it be better?
Unbeaten in 12 fixtures and just two points off the top of the Premier League table, Liverpool should be in good spirits as they head into the November international break. And yet there’s a sense of restlessness around Anfield right now, as if not all is well in their world. It’s a peculiar contradiction.
Of course, much of this is down to the precedent being set by Manchester City as the Premier League pace-setters. It was a similar story for Manchester United last season, who despite finishing second, their best finish since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, couldn’t shake the malaise that set in around the club.
Liverpool have been picked apart by the pundits and even their own fans in recent weeks. Some of the analyse has been extreme, but it’s true that Jurgen Klopp has some imbalances in his squad to address. His frontline isn’t quite firing as it was in the second half of last season, but it is in midfield where the Reds have struggled most of all to find the right formula.
The injury suffered by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain towards the end of last season robbed Liverpool of drive through the centre of the pitch, while Adam Lallana hasn’t quite found form over the early part of the 2018/19 campaign. This has given Klopp a problem, particularly because Philippe Coutinho has never been truly replaced since his move to Barcelona in January.
This is where Xherdan Shaqiri has offered something of a solution. The Swiss is, by trade, a winger, but Klopp has, of late, taken to using him through the middle. This is something he did with Oxlade-Chamberlain too and now Shaqiri, who has the drive and creativity to open up the kind of packed opposition defences Liverpool face regularly, is performing a similar role.
Whether or not this was the intention with Shaqiri’s signing in the first place, only Klopp knows, but the former Bayern Munich and Stoke City man is fast becoming one of the most important players in the Reds’ squad. Some fans doubted whether Shaqiri would be good enough for Liverpool, but they would have been worse off without him this season.
Shaqiri has now scored or contributed an assist in each of his last six appearances for the Merseyside outfit. Klopp used him to great effect as a number 10 in behind Mohamed Salah in a 4-2-3-1 system in the 2-0 home win over Fulham at the weekend. He can also play in a 4-3-3 formation, demonstrating his versatility, a quality that Klopp looks for in all his players. In more ways than one, Shaqiri is becoming the quintessential Klopp-era Liverpool player.
Can the Reds go all the way?
Liverpool are currently for Premier League title glory and interestingly to be top of the table come Christmas.