With the 2018/2019 Premier League season finally upon us, fans across the globe are eagerly anticipating to see how their rejuvenated teams fare in the upcoming campaign.
Teams now have the closure of knowing that no new signings have to be accommodated from now until the new year, and millions of eyes will be attentively assessing how these arrivals perform.
One such man is Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri, purchased this summer from relegated Stoke City, the Swiss international came in for a measly £13.5m.
Initially thought to be strictly used as cover for Mané or Salah, Shaqiri’s appearances in pre-season have certainly added another dimension to that discussion.
With his arrival perhaps overshadowed by the likes of Keita, Fabinho, and Alisson; there seems to be an underestimation of his role in the side this season.
We’ll be looking at what Shaqiri’s skill set brings to this Liverpool team and how Klopp might utilise him.
Not many footballers look like Xherdan Shaqiri: 5”7 and built like an absolute tank. If seen out in public, a professional footballer would probably be one of the least likely career choices you would think he pursued. Even more so the fact that he’s a tricky winger.
Shaqiri first caught the eye of the footballing world while playing for Basel in 2011. Manchester United went crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage, and the young winger played a massive part in accomplishing that.
His strong showings earned him a summer move to Bayern Munich. And despite not playing regular football, he became a household name.
Six years on, and Shaqiri is still only 26 years old. He has world-class ability, but is yet to churn it out over a 38 game period.
His main attributes cover some much-needed deficiencies in the current squad. He has a quick initial step and is more than happy to take on a defender. Mané and Salah are rapid, but Shaqiri is more willing to go at a man.
His left foot is a thing of beauty. Set-pieces aren’t a problem as long as he’s on the pitch, and he can strike a ball better than anyone else in the squad.
Some of Shaqiri’s abilities that inexplicably go unmentioned revolve around his tidiness on the ball. He’s efficient in tight spaces and possesses both the vision and ability to execute some absolutely magnificent passes.
These latter attributes in particular are key factors into why the former Stoke winger might see himself occupying a different area of the pitch at times.
With the departure of Philippe Coutinho in January, many expected Jurgen Klopp to break the bank on a like-for-like replacement.
The Brazilian left a creative hole in the middle of the park, and the manager had to be resourceful with how to fill it. For many of the remaining games in the season, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found a way to become a creative presence from midfield.
The Englishman’s eventual injury in April, along with the lack of a big money playmaker joining the club in the summer, means that a hole still exists.
However, if preseason is anything to go by, Xerdan Shaqiri can go a long way in filling that hole.
His unofficial debut for the club was a second-half cameo against Manchester United in Michigan. Floating in behind the forwards, Shaqiri was given full permission to wreak havoc.
He managed to grab an assist and score his now famous overhead kick in that limited amount of time, highlighting his potential in this role.
He continued to impress in preseason, catching the eye of many supporters who perhaps doubted the reasoning for his purchase.
His latest assist showcased his wonderful playmaking ability yet again as he clipped a wonderful ball into the box for Sturridge to head home against Torino.
Battling for a side that eventually faced relegation last season, Shaqiri was still able to register eight goals and seven assists in 36 league appearances.
It’s hard to imagine that chances to either score or set up goals will now be more scarce as he gears up for his debut campaign with Liverpool.
His unique skill set and ability to play as both cover on the wing and a creative option from midfield means that he’ll get plenty of game time throughout the season.
As the Reds prepare to mount their first serious title challenge in 5 years, Shaqiri looks set to play a massive role in it.