Xherdan Shaqiri’s omission from Jurgen Klopp’s squad to face Arsenal last night was glaring.
Reds fans have become accustomed to life without Shaqiri after he clocked up just two Premier League starts during Liverpool’s procession to the title last season.
It isn’t usually a surprise to see that the Switzerland international as an absentee for Liverpool but this time something felt different.
Shaqiri, 28, had been expected to start the match following his excellent performance against Lincoln City in the previous round.
Instead, his cameo at Sincil Bank, which saw him arrow a pint-point free-kick into the top corner, could prove to be his last significant involvement at Liverpool.
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“Some were not involved. It is the time of the year when some things happen in the background and you have to react – that is what we did,” Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports after.
Shaqiri expected to leave
According to Goal, Shaqiri’s unavailability was stemmed from a growing transfer interest in the forward from two unspecified clubs. The report claims that Liverpool had received a call about a potential deal that was too good to refuse before the club deemed his potential involvement against Arsenal as too great a risk.
If this is to be goodbye for Shaqiri, then he can certainly leave Anfield with his head held high. He cost Liverpool just £13 million after suffering relegation with Stoke and during his two seasons on Merseyside he made a number of memorable contributions.
His eight goals for the club include that sensational brace off the bench against Manchester United in front of the Kop as well as the classy finish during the 5-2 rout against Everton in December 2019. Shaqiri also had a memorable impact in the famous Champions League comeback against Barcelona, setting up the third goal of Liverpool’s stunning 4-0 comeback.
On his day, there are few players in the Premier League who can match him for technique, especially from dead-ball situations. Had it not been for a debilitating calf problem, there would have been more highlights.
Liverpool’s relentless evolvement
Shaqiri’s story, however, points to a bigger picture at Liverpool and typifies the club’s rapid evolvement. It wasn’t too long ago that Reds fans were crying out for Shaqiri to join the club prior to his move to Inter Milan in 2015.
There is no doubt that only a few years ago Shaqiri would have been an instant starter and one of the team’s recognised game-changers.
However, Liverpool have evolved quicker than the forward may have originally imagined when he eventually joined in 2018. The reality is that the team have moved on without him and the standards required to keep up have proven too big a task for the former Bayern Munich prodigy to cope with.
The same can be said for Marko Grujic, who despite an encouraging display against Arsenal last night, also remains surplus to requirements in terms of Liverpool’s Premier League and Champions League aspirations.
The Serbian international was Liverpool’s most threatening player against the Gunners and despite yet another strong showing, interest from a number of clubs, notably Borussia Moenchengladbach could mean the writing is on the wall in regards to his Anfield future.
Like Shaqiri, Grujic is expected to leave the club soon. Both are extremely talented footballers but are still just below the required level to upset the dynamic of Klopp’s midfield options.
With the likes of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum, Naby Keita, Thiago Alcantara, James Milner and Curtis Jones at the manager’s disposal, competition for places has never been higher. Even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looks to have an uphill battle to break back into the mix.
Harry Wilson, who missed the decisive penalty last night, is another unfortunate victim of Liverpool’s unrivalled dominance over the previous two years. The Wales international started for the Reds for the first time in three-and-a-half years last night but didn’t do anything too significant to give Klopp much food-for-thought in regards to his first-team prospects.
Although Wilson did manage to contribute five key passes for Liverpool last night – more than any player on the pitch – in truth, it is not enough to warrant a case for further appearances. As good as Wilson was with key passes, they were all he really offered on the night. He didn’t take a single shot, attempt any dribbles, or win any tackles.
With Liverpool’s transfer dealings in terms of incoming pretty much finalised a fortnight ago, the fact that reports continue to persist regarding potential Anfield outgoings really tell the story of the club’s recent evolvement and just how unforgiving it can be for certain fringe players to keep up with the standards required to survive at the home of the Premier League champions.
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