The signing of Takumi Minamino - especially given how quickly it was wrapped and with little fanfare preceding it - was a lovely surprise for many Reds. For someone like me, who’d found the Japan International absolutely electric in the Champions League tilts against his club at the time, Red Bull Salzburg, it was an absolute dream.
It was evident in his active pressing, nose for finding seams, and quality on the ball that he’d make a decent addition to any squad. And given that those qualities are of high value to Liverpool’s playing style, only presumed that Minamino would be the type of player that would be an interesting get for Liverpool.
Even with all of that, though, there was reason to think that it’d take a while for him to see the pitch. Jurgen’s not necessarily shy to put new players in, but even with players of quality and for whom their positional skillset might warrant early introduction, there’s a bit of a learning curve. Think on how long it took to get Fabinho entirely knitted into the center of the park.
Thanks to a bit of a mild injury crisis in midfield, though, Minamino took to the pitch for the first time in the FA Cup edition of the Merseyside Derby just a few days after the calendar ticked over to 2020. Meaningful to be involved so early against a club like Everton, but it was an appearance of necessity.
Yesterday, with Sadio Mane hobbling off due to injury, Klopp turned surprisingly to Minamino to fill the void; Divock Origi had, heretofore, been the player called upon to step into that wide-left role. Minamino had a lot of work to do and while his presence on the left was a step down from Mané’s, that’s not really saying much given that the Senegalese forward has been providing player of the year-calibre performances once again.
The drop off showed as Minamino’s introduction coincided with Adama Traore finding more space down the wing, likely due to being more free to move forward now that Mané wasn’t flying down that line. It made for nervy moments, especially given how Andrew Robertson struggled to keep a lid on the electric Wolverhampton attacker.
Still, Minamino and the Reds did enough to secure the win and, afterward, the gaffer had nothing but praise for the Japan International.
““He’s exactly the player we expected to get – super, super boy, super player. You saw so many things of his ability last night. This game last night was a proper fight and he was completely ready for that. From a tactical point of view, it was an outstanding game. That’s what we see in training.”
Minamino made an impression on everyone and one can only hope that he continues to bed in and learn the system. With the return of some big names from injury - namely, Naby Keita - one can imagine that Klopp’s prepping Minamino to play more in a forward role and less as a midfielder.
The added depth is going to be critical as the club returns to mid-week matches with regularity until they are bounced from either the FA Cup or the Champions League. Here’s hoping everyone gets up to speed soon enough to keep the good times rolling.