Following some impressive performances by his new player Xherdan Shaqiri, Jürgen Klopp admitted that the decision to start him on the bench against Cardiff City came down to managing the player’s minutes.
Shaqiri’s relentless drive has impressed Liverpool fans any time he’s been on the pitch, and it’s becoming clear that the Swiss international could be on his way to earning himself a permanent spot in Klopp’s preferred starting XI. Considering that, it was a bit surprising not to see him listed him on the roster, and Klopp agreed that it was a tough choice.
“He played four games nearly 90 minutes now in a row - in the international break both games for Switzerland, for us Huddersfield and then Belgrade I think 70 [minutes] so it was clear…” Klopp explained. “We don’t know Shaq long enough and good enough to know how he reacts. Not performance-wise, that’s not important, [but] sometimes you have to protect players until you know them a bit better, and I thought that the line-up we chose for today was a good one.”
Shaqiri made an instant impact when he entered that game in the second half, galvanizing the team that had begun to look lackluster upon return from the break. He scored the crucial third goal to take the wind out of Cardiff’s sails, and then contributed to Mané’s second only minutes later.
“Then Shaq came in and was involved I think in two nice goals, that’s always good,” he continued. “That made it so hard to leave him out for that game, only you have to think a bit about it whether it’s really the right thing to do. We decided differently but that’s how it is: football games are 97, 98 minutes and you need 14 players for that. OK today, we only had 13 as we only changed twice, but bringing on that quality what we can bring on is a massive difference.”
Shaqiri’s ascendance up the Liverpool ranks serves to highlight the fact that this team now has legitimate depth everywhere on the pitch. Klopp has methodically and effectively transformed this team into the genuine article. Even players like Shaqiri, whose transfer in the summer underwhelmed many fans, is further proof that the boss knows what he’s doing, and has more than earned the benefit of the doubt when he comes to handpicking the players that he wants for his team.
With a full week of rest between now and the game against Arsenal, Shaqiri should be ready to start again if Klopp wants him to. But by that time, one of Jordan Henderson or Naby Keïta may be available as well to once against give Klopp the best kind of headache.
With the Reds now 10 games unbeaten in the league, these are exciting times to be a Liverpool fan, and it feels like we get more to cheer about every time they play.