Opinion: Xherdan Shaqiri should never have left Stoke City
Xherdan Shaqiri's decision to make the journey north to Anfield from Stoke City this summer was met with a lot of disapproval and criticism. Fans at the Bet365 Stadium wanted their best player to stay but Shaqiri wanted growth and the opportunity to play with the best. Tottenham, West Ham and Everton were in the race to buy him but it was Liverpool who eventually got the Swiss winger's signature.
Shaqiri's decision left a lot of fans at Stoke shell-shocked but they understood that with the club being relegated, moving to Liverpool was the best option for him to further his career. The recent run of events at Anfield, however, have suggested that perhaps it was not exactly the best decision made by the man from Gijilan. There are statistics to back this too!
As a winger
Shaqiri is a winger who primarily played on the right-hand side of the attack for Stoke last season. Moving to Liverpool meant that he would be competing with Mohamed Salah for the spot. Even though Shaqiri can play on both sides of the flank, it meant that he was also competing with Sadio Mane too.
Replacing Salah and Mane in a Liverpool side playing some of its best football under German manager Jurgen Klopp is next to impossible, so let us take Shaqiri out of this equation. If he wanted to replace either one of them when he first moved to Anfield, then he was short-sighted and not aware of reality.
Shaqiri is fast and creative but he is not as good as a finisher as Mane or Salah nor can he make opportunities like the two of them do.
As an attacking midfielder
If he was getting no game time as a winger, the next best position for Shaqiri to play was in the attacking midfielder role (CAM). This, however, has problems. Jurgen Klopp, for instance, does not believe in playing any player as a central attacking midfielder. His philosophy lies in the 4-3-3 position where among the three central midfielders he plays, two play in a holding role.
The only playmaker Klopp plays a lot is either James Milner or Georginio Wijnaldum. Shaqiri cannot compete with either Milner or Wijnaldum in holding play and creating chances. He is not that secure on the ball nor does he possess a lot of passing accuracy. Shaqiri is good on the ball but ordinary without it.
As a striker
Once we have ruled out Shaqiri's place in the Liverpool team either as a winger or central attacking midfielder, it can be argued that he can be played as a backup to Roberto Firmino or even as a false nine. The problem here, however, is that Klopp does not favour a false nine.
Shaqiri also has Dominic Solanke and Daniel Sturridge to compete with for a place in the centre-forward/ striker position. He is faster than either of them and is more creative. Though Sturridge was away on loan to West Brom last season, he has come back with fire raging inside him. He can give Shaqiri a real run for his money in the second striker position.
What can be concluded from the study we conducted above is that Shaqiri has no realistic chance of breaking into the Liverpool first XI this season unless there is an injury or if Klopp is looking to rotate the side, although he has impressed in the chances he has got, notching up two assists in the five appearances he has made so far.
If Shaqiri were still at Stoke this year, he would have been the only lion in the jungle and the uncrowned king of the Bet 365 Stadium. It would have been great for his personal growth and if he managed to bring them back to the Premier League next season, all the better.
But Shaqiri chose big names over utility and decided that warming the benches in Liverpool was better than scoring multiple hattricks for Stoke City.