Why Xherdan Shaqiri is a key player for Liverpool FC's trophy hopes
When Jurgen Klopp took over from Brendan Rogers in October 2015, his first game was a goalless draw with Tottenham. Though such a result against a Spurs side was not a bad result, the overall display was far from good, and there was a need for big changes.
However, Klopp showed patience in signing players, and made his first signing in January 2016, that of Marko Grujic. But even this signing was not made with the first team in view, as Grujic was more of a "one for the future" player, and was immediately sent back on loan to Red Star Belgrade.
His first major signing was Sadio Mane in June 2016. Since then, he has made some brilliant signings like Salah, Wijnaldum, Robertson, and more recently Van Dijk and Alisson.
One of the most recent signings is Xherdan Shaqiri for £13.5 million from Stoke City. He performed quite well in pre-season tournament, but many still believed that he would just be a squad player, making substitute appearances, and maybe playing in cup games.
This was because the position Shaqiri would compete for was occupied by Salah, and his exploits last season almost made sure that Shaqiri would not have a chance.
At Stoke, his lazy attitude and lack of running was heavily criticised, and Klopp's Liverpool heavily rely on running, hard work, and high pressing. He made his debut in the first game of the season against West Ham, playing the last 8 minutes of the game.
After that, he made a few substitute appearances, and was rewarded with a full debut against Southampton in the Premier League, where he absolutely set the field on fire with a fantastic first-half display.
He showed an immediate link with Sadio Mane, latching onto a through ball from him, skipped inside Cedric, and then his curling shot somehow trickled into the net via a couple of deflections.
Then it was his brilliant curling free kick that cannoned off the crossbar, and was tapped in by Salah. He was surprisingly taken off after 45 minutes, but his display was a sign of good things to come. Since then he has scored 2 goals and assisted another 3.
His performances have been such that he has forced Klopp into changing his style of play from a 4-3-3 formation to a 4-2-3-1. He has adapted himself to the high press style of Liverpool, and silenced all doubters who criticised his lazy style of play.
In a team that boasts of having midfielders like Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana, and Milner, Shaqiri has made a strong case for starting week in week out.
It was obvious that after Coutinho's departure, Liverpool would require a creative player with the ability to split any defence. However, the form of the front three of Salah, Mane, and Firmino covered up for that, and the loss of Coutinho was soon forgotten.
But keeping up that form was always going to be difficult, and the form of at least one of the front three was sure to drop a notch. With the front three not having the same impact this season, and with the fact that all Liverpool's attacking midfielders are pure box-to-box, the need for someone like Shaqiri is undeniable.
He is the kind of player who can split a tight defence even in the last few minutes of a match, and turn a goalless draw into a 1-0 victory. His assists so far this season have been sublime, he has shown deft touches, and constantly tries to find teammates ahead of him.
The front three may be feared all around the footballing world, but when they are shut out by strong defences, Shaqiri possesses the ability to unlock such defences and create chances.
Shaqiri may not have come into the team as the first choice, but he has surely proven that he has the ability and the will to be Liverpool's main man.