Will Xherdan Shaqiri make a big impact at Liverpool in the 2018/19 season after moving to Merseyside in a £13million deal last week?
Shortly after the end of Switzerland’s run to the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup in Russia, Liverpool FC announced the signing of Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri. The Reds were linked to Shaqiri around the time of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil before the player ultimately agreed to a deal to join Stoke City instead.
With the Potters having been relegated from the Premier League, however, the Swiss international was reportedly interested in a move away in order to stay in England’s top flight. Shaqiri naturally garnered interest from other clubs, but it was ultimately Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool that were able to secure his signature.
While Shaqiri won’t often be confused with the best football players of all time at this stage of his career, he still would appear to be an excellent fit for what Klopp wants to do.
Shaqiri’s role in the squad is currently unclear. Defensive midfielder Emre Can has been the only major departure from the team this summer, and he was proactively replaced by newcomer Fabinho, as well as long-awaited new signee Naby Keita. Shaqiri doesn’t play that position anyway, but a potential role may have opened up for him thanks to the injury to Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain.
Ox injured his ACL during the team’s run through Champions League, and he was essentially replaced by Gini Wijnaldum during the tournament’s last couple of games. Wijnaldum is more of a deep-lying midfielder, however, so his substitution in place of Oxlade-Chamberlain wasn’t exactly a like-for-like.
Shaqiri is much more of an attacking presence, which figures to jive well alongside fellow speedsters Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané down both flanks. Of course, how much the player will feature regularly for Klopp is up in the air. The Reds are also reportedly still keen on nabbing midfielder Nabil Fekir from Lyon after their initial overtures for the Frenchman were reportedly scuttled.
If Fekir does wind up arriving on Merseyside, one would imagine the World Cup champion will assume a regular role in the starting XI, at least until Oxlade-Chamberlain returns to the pitch. Adam Lallana is another player in the mix, though he may have fallen out of favour after an injury-riddled 2017-18 campaign. That likely leaves Shaqiri as a regular rotation player and one that may feature more in cup matches than in Liverpool’s Premier League fixtures.
Still, Shaqiri should be able to provide some solid depth going forward, especially if one of Firmino, Salah or Mané comes up with any sort of injury issue at some point. The Swiss winger is comfortable playing on either flank, which adds to his overall value and versatility to the club.
While pace and width outside are nice attributes, Shaqiri isn’t exactly Raheem Sterling when it comes to finishing. The former Inter player has shown a knack for scoring goals with regularity. Obviously, that’s a positive quality. Shaqiri found the back of the net 8 times for the Potters, which led the team, during their relegation campaign.
Shaqiri also chimed in with 7 assists, which may not sound like a ton until you realize that Stoke only scored 35 goals in the league last season. The Swiss winger was quite influential in all areas of the squad’s attack. With the aforementioned dangerous collection of talent leading the Liverpool line, Shaqiri should have no shortage of opportunities to rack up assists next season.
Getting a player of Shaqiri’s calibre for so cheap was also a no-brainer. In a world in which someone like Neymar costs well over £200 million, being able to secure an established Premier League talent in the prime of his career for about £12 million is a downright bargain. Liverpool have no shortage of attackers, but Klopp will need some fresh legs in order to successfully steer the side through 4 competitions next season.
One potential issue with Shaqiri is that he has not played in a high-pressure system like the one Liverpool play, but he would appear physically capable of handling the toll it may take. Shaqiri is essentially built like a tank, and he looks more than sturdy enough to deal with the physically-demanding style.
The former Stoke man figures to have plenty of opportunities to carve out a role for himself during the Reds’ preseason fixtures. With so many of Liverpool’s key cogs taking time off after the World Cup, Shaqiri should get the chance to try and fit in alongside some of the club’s incumbent players during the rigorous pre-season schedule. We have already seen Fabinho and Keïta featuring regularly in the team’s early games against lesser foes.
Some fans may be lukewarm on the move considering he just played for a side that were relegated, but the Swiss attacker was easily the most threatening player in an otherwise punchless Stoke attack. He was essentially a one-man show, and it’s fair to say that not even Lionel Messi would have been able to drag that side out of the mess they made for themselves.
Now, he gets a fresh start with a club with big aspirations. Playing in Champions League and potentially threatening for a Premier League title should prove invigorating for a player that has been toiling away with a mid-table side for the last several seasons.
The lack of regular first-team football could ultimately prove problematic for Shaqiri’s consistency, and that’s one part of his game that has raised questions in the past. Shaqiri wasn’t a dominant force week-in and week-out for Stoke, but he won’t have to be that with LFC.
Opposing defenses were able to hone in on Shaqiri with the knowledge that they could shut down the entire Stoke attack if they kept him out of the game. That won’t be the case with Liverpool, as we know. If opposing sides focus on stifling Shaqiri, they’ll get killed by the likes of Salah, Firmino, Mané or any of the other strong options at Klopp’s disposal.
The fact that he won’t have to be “the guy” with Liverpool, as he was with both Stoke and Switzerland, should allow Shaqiri to enjoy a smooth transition into life at a massive club. Without the burden of huge expectations and lots of fanfare, he figures to be able to play freely and adapt to his new surroundings.
Shaqiri’s combination of strength, pace, agility and trickery should make him a natural fit for Klopp’s high-octane attack. If he gets out into space with the ball one-on-one against a defender, it’s unlikely to end too well for his opponent. Shaqiri also has an extremely powerful left foot capable of pinging home balls from outside the box. That’s a trait that will surely come in handy, especially on a side with the ability to counterattack to swiftly and effectively.
Considering the cheap price tag and potential upside, Shaqiri looks like a potential steal of a signing for the Reds. It will be interesting to see what kind of role he will have, especially when the squad is at full strength from a health perspective. In the end, I think he will prove to be quite the useful acquisition as the Reds go hunting for trophies in the upcoming term.