Liverpool lost the Community Shield to Arsenal on Saturday after a penalty shoot-out. But their £36m duo gave them reason to come away with excitement.
No, Liverpool didn’t play well against Arsenal. They were pretty awful in the first half, in fact, and started the second poorly before Jurgen Klopp made some changes.
The most notable difference was the formation. Klopp switched from his preferred 4-3-3 and went 4-2-3-1 as everyone moved around in attack.
Roberto Firmino dropped deeper to play no.10. Mohamed Salah then took up a role as a striker while Sadio Mane shifted from left to right and took Salah’s original position.
Importantly, Takumi Minamino also featured. The Japanese international came off the bench and immediately took up a position from the left. Liverpool now had four attackers on the pitch.
What followed was a Reds team that looked livelier, sharper, and harder for Arsenal to handle. It also gave us a glimpse – for all of 23 minutes – of an exciting potential partnership.
Minamino & Firmino
We’ve mentioned this one before, admittedly. That was way back in January, though, when Minamino played with Firmino against Wolves.
£7.25m Minamino impressed us in that game – despite playing just 12 minutes – through his switching with Firmino, a £29m signing in 2015. The two of them drifted from position to position, able to take up the space left by the other.
There’s huge potential there. Liverpool, usually fairly rigid in their XI, have two players who naturally drift and swap positions wonderfully well. In theory, that makes them almost impossible to pick up – when they’re at their best.
Packed defences will struggle to follow them as if they do, they risk losing all shape. That leaves space that any of the front four can exploit.
It’s encouraging that we saw it again in the Community Shield, even if Liverpool eventually lost. And it’s also telling that Minamino got the equaliser after drifting in from the left.
Minamino didn’t look ready for Liverpool last season, after all. He joined a hugely successful team in January and never really fit in – although, it does typically take players a while to get used to things at Anfield.
But he looked ready and raring to go on Saturday. He came on, played to his strengths, and helped change the game. Firmino, too, suddenly became a lot more involved. He ended up having over twice as many touches in the second half, despite going off with seven minutes to go.
The two seem like a natural complement to one another and the Community Shield suggested it’s the case again.