Shaqiri unshackled 'n' unleashed

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, December 21, 2018
Adjust font size:
Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates scoring Liverpool's second goal during its 3-1 victory over Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday.

Xherdan Shaqiri proved his quality to Liverpool fans almost as soon as he arrived in July but it is only now that he is starting to suggest he can be a key figure in the Reds' Premier League title bid.

Shaqiri's two goals as a substitute on Sunday secured a 3-1 victory over Manchester United that took his team back to the top of the standings. He hopes his reward will be a return to the starting lineup away to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday.

The Switzerland international was arguably fortunate to get a move to Anfield five months ago, having been part of a relegated Stoke City side, even though he finished as the Potters' leading Premier League scorer with eight goals.

There were questions too over whether he had the necessary work ethic for Liverpool's demanding manager Jurgen Klopp. Answering those questions has taken time, but he is getting there, as Klopp has acknowledged.

"Shaq needs time, it's normal," Klopp said. "He knows that he has so much potential still to improve. But of course he's the guy for decisive moments, that's how it is, and we have to make sure that it stays like this."

Shaqiri, 27, announced himself in spectacular style, scoring with an overhead kick in a preseason triumph over United in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in July, days before stating in an interview that he felt his new club "can win everything in the world".

If that statement seemed hubristic, it was at least made from a position of knowledge as to what it takes to be successful-Shaqiri was part of the Bayern Munich squad that won back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2013 and 2014.

That winning nous may well prove useful in a Liverpool squad full of talent but short on experience when it comes to securing league titles, although he has had to bide his time for his chance.

Klopp tried Shaqiri in a midfield role as Liverpool defeated Southampton 3-0 in September, but replaced the Kosovo-born Swiss at halftime, believing that his side was far too open.

Even now, his best hope of becoming a regular starter is to displace one of Liverpool's lethal front three of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. Because Shaqiri tends to operate on the right, despite being left-footed, it looked initially as if that would mean dislodging superstar Salah.

However, Firmino's early-season goal drought in the central role prompted a reshuffle from Klopp, with Salah moving into the middle, the Brazilian dropping back and Shaqiri coming in on the right.

Starting spot

Starting with the home victory over Fulham on Nov 11, the Swiss made five successive league starts in that set-up, with Liverpool winning all of those matches, before he returned to the bench for the United match, with Klopp preferring to use Firmino and Mane behind Salah in a 4-3-3 formation.

It was one of the three midfielders, Naby Keita, who Shaqiri replaced with 20 minutes to go against United, with Klopp feeling he could take that risk in an attempt to defeat an unadventurous opponent.

The forward offers a useful skill set for Klopp. In addition to his scoring threat, he possesses an ability to unlock defenses with short and long-range passing and an appreciation of how to find and exploit space.

Those weapons, in addition to his freekick ability, are likely to be vital in tight games as the season progresses. And Klopp has indicated that there will be opportunities for him across the attacking line.

"He is someone who makes a big difference to the squad and team, because he can fit in so many positions in our system," the German said.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from