With just 308 minutes played in all competitions, Xherdan Shaqiri has struggled to re-assert himself as a main fixture in Jürgen Klopp’s squad. When the Swiss was dropped from the squad in October to try secure a move away from the club, it looked certain his time at Anfield was coming to an end.
It is now January and, after a transfer deal didn’t materialise, the No.23 remains a member of the German’s squad but his services have been rarely relied upon, making just eight appearances all season with six coming from the substitutes bench.
With Aston Villa’s first team out of action due to a Covid-19 outbreak, their u18s were called in to face the Premier League champions in the FA Cup. It was an ideal opportunity for the former Stoke City player to be involved from the off, but when Klopp announced a strong side including the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, Shaqiri had to settle for another appearance from the bench.
When Liverpool went 1-0 up in the opening four minutes it looked like the young Villans would be in for a long night. However, after the opener the home side composed themselves and put in a remarkable performance, and even equalised to make it level at half-time.
While Villa’s youngsters put in a display to be proud of in the first half, it was quite the opposite for the Reds. There seemed to be no tempo or cutting edge to their attacks and the midfield passing lacked any pace and movement.
When the teams came out for the second half, Thiago Alcântara had come on in the place of Jordan Henderson and, 15 minutes later, Shaqiri took the place of Takumi Minamino. Two changes made to try to liven up the away side’s football.
The two former Bayern Munich stars were the Merseyside club’s key men as they went on to win 4-1 in the cup tie, but Shaqiri was the player with a point to prove.
Just two minutes after coming on the 29-year-old had already made an impact when his cross was put into the net with a looping header from Sadio Mané.
The Kosovo-born player’s introduction added a spark to the Reds’ attacking play and brought along more creativity in the final third. Despite only playing 30 minutes of football, Shaqiri created three chances – the second most of any player involved on the night.Embed from Getty Images
Knowing that Shaqiri was looking to be moved on in the previous transfer window, and with Klopp’s preference to have a smaller squad at his disposal, the Swiss could be one of those deemed to be surplus to requirements – but whether he is shipped off in the January window or in the summer is currently unknown.
But while the No.23 is at Anfield, it would be foolish to not use him whenever possible as he offers the team something different moving forward, and can be a particularly potent weapon coming off the bench.
Liverpool’s next match will see Manchester United come to Anfield – the last time Shaqiri played in that particular fixture, he scored twice to win the game for the Reds. If involved, hopefully he can have a similar impact this time.
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