Jack Hallows analyses Xherdan Shaqiri’s debut appearance for Liverpool Football Club and where early signs show that he may fit in this coming campaign.
He may have only set the club back £13m, a bargain given the money being bounced around in today’s market but Xherdan Shaqiri’s first appearance in a Liverpool shirt will be one to remember.
The Swiss international only joined up with his team mates early last week but by Saturday afternoon he was on the second half team sheet for the Reds’ final US based fixture against none other than Manchester United.
Shaqiri entered the fray just after half time with a 1-1 scoreline slightly flattering the Manchester side but given the number of changes made at the break, the game could’ve gone either way.
The former Bayern Munich man, however, played a huge part in making sure the result went in his team’s favour.
Fielded in a central role similar to what he played for Stoke last season, Shaqiri was a bundle of energy and his link up play with Daniel Sturridge in particular really caught the eye.
The Reds’ no.15 looked to be benefiting heavily from having someone practically do his running for him and he reaped the profits just past the hour mark when Shaqiri latched onto a long ball from Phillips over the top of the United defence.
The Swiss international exhibited incredible strength and composure to not only pluck the ball out of the air over his shoulder but also palm off Eric Bailly, get his head up and find Sturridge’s feet, setting him up for a lovely finish.
In all honesty, if that assist and bit of hold up play had been Shaqiri’s main highlight of the match I would not have complained.
Such is the nature of the man that he still had something special up his sleeve to ensure that the Reds fans in the ground went home not just happy but jubilant.
With United looking down and out at 3-1 down thanks to another confident penalty kick – this time from Ojo – Shaqiri decided he wanted his hammer of a left foot to be the one to put the final nail in the coffin.
A loose ball came Ben Woodburn’s way in the penalty area 10 minutes from time and the Welshman hung an inviting cross towards the penalty spot. Not one known for his headed goals, Shaqiri instead showcased just why we made him our number one target to bolster the squad’s attack by leaping off the floor and unleashing a thunderous overhead kick into the back of the net.
Shaqiri had joined with a tagline of being able to produce moments of pure magic out of nothing and you just don’t get a better example than that.
James Pearce of the Liverpool ECHO gave the no.23’s performance a “9.5/10” but come on, the lad deserves a 10 just for the look on Mourinho’s face after that goal went in!
As far as debuts go, this was certainly up there as one of the most explosive I’ve ever seen and even Jürgen Klopp himself expressed his surprise at how Shaqiri had slotted so seamlessly into the XI.
“That’s not normal after four days in the club – adapting that well to the style of play,” Klopp said post-match.
“We wanted to help him a little bit with the position so that it’s not too complicated, gave him a lot of freedom, offensively playing natural, plus offering runs in behind, which is what he did, especially around the Sturridge goal.”
Lots of the talk post-match has been expressions of surprise over Shaqiri playing in a central role but it was always a real possibility that this was somewhere we would be seeing him played – especially given it now looks nailed on that Nabil Fekir will not be a Liverpool player by the end of this window.
Shaqiri played this position a number of times for Stoke City – albeit in a slightly more advanced role than he played against United – and he averaged a goal contribution every 157 minutes. This is compared to a goal contribution every 198 minutes when fielded out wide.
It’s likely that Shaqiri’s primary function will be to provide cover and competition for the wide players in the squad particularly, of course, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané.
However, don’t be surprised to see the Swiss international fulfill a number of attacking positions this season given the tendency for opposition teams to sit deep and look to frustrate Liverpool rather than really come at them.
If the Reds don’t sign another attacker between now and the end of the transfer window – Nabil Fekir and Christian Pulisic continue to be linked but with no real concrete evidence to suggest one will actually join the club – I can see Shaqiri becoming a really important player for us this season and if he performs like he did on Saturday regularly then I am more than fine with it!