Jurgen Klopp discussed comparisons between Xherdan Shaqiri and Philippe Coutinho as he spoke to Sky Sports’ Gary Neville.
The Liverpool boss certainly has a lot to talk about right now, given his side’s place in the Premier League. One of his most interesting answers, however, was on the future of Shaqiri.
Shaqiri’s impact so far
Shaqiri has been a hit since arriving at Anfield from Stoke City in the summer. Shaqiri has proven to be the cover Klopp needed for his squad thanks to his ability to play across the front line. But is there the potential for him to be far more than that?
Neville asked Klopp if Shaqiri could actually be the long-term replacement for Coutinho. The Brazilian hasn’t been replaced like-for-like since his move to Barcelona and Shaqiri has shown flashes of similar magic.
Is Shaqiri the next Coutinho?
Coutinho certainly set the bar very high but Shaqiri has already shown a similar ability to influence games.
The biggest difference between the two, however, is in their positioning – Shaqiri hasn’t yet demonstrated that he can play ‘half-spaces’ in a midfield three.
“We did have to find a position for him [Shaqiri],” said Klopp. “That’s a pretty good one [Coutinho’s position]. We tried it in a 4-3-3 – he can’t play there yet as a half-space midfielder.
“You don’t want to force a player into a position, you want to show his strengths, not where he isn’t good.
“Xherdan’s main quality is obviously offensive – creating, shooting, finishes, being between the lines – and in a half-space position, there is a lot of defensive work.”
Klopp does believe that Shaqiri could emulate Coutinho’s role one day, though.
“He can do that and he gets better day by day and maybe one day he could play it like Phil could play it in the last half year he was here,” he said.
Not simply another Coutinho
It took Coutinho years to learn the specific role. The Brazilian played a variety of positions throughout his Liverpool career before eventually settling.
Coutinho’s impact was enormous once he did find his role, however, demonstrated by the 12 goals and eight assists in his final six months.
He’s managed just 13 goals and nine assists in his full year with Barcelona, suggesting that Klopp found Coutinho’s ideal role and got the most out of him.
And that’s the biggest takeaway here – this isn’t really about shaping Shaqiri into another Coutinho.
Klopp took his time with Coutinho and got the most out of him. He’ll do the same with Shaqiri over time, shaping him into the best player the forward can be.
That’s an exciting prospect, no matter what position he ends up playing.