Fans were confused after an impressive first half of football in his full debut, Xherdan Shaqiri was pulled by the manager for the second half. Shaqiri, who was instrumental in all of Liverpool’s offensive play in the first 45 minutes on their way to scoring three times, didn’t appear to have a medical issue that required him being subbed out, so there was some confusion over Jürgen Klopp’s decision.
Klopp isn’t one to pull a player at halftime, especially one who performed so well, but the boss explained his decision after the match.
“I said to Shaq at half-time that I had never brought a player off after such an influential time without an injury,” Klopp admitted. “He is not injured. But I wanted to control the game and go back to our normal formation. And that helped, we really controlled it. But still Southampton had their moments, they didn’t have big chances but they had their moments. We wanted to avoid that they could come through one or two times too often. We wanted to score of course; we were a bit unlucky in one or the other situations.”
Part of Klopp’s decision may have been due to Virgil van Dijk going off injured at the same time. In his place was Joel Matip, coming on for his first significant minutes of the season. Klopp may have come to the conclusion that more solidity in the midfield from Milner was necessary to see them through.
On explaining the sub to Shaqiri, Klopp said, “It was not easy, to be honest. It’s my job to sometimes deliver news nobody wants to hear. That’s how it was at half-time but he is a fantastic boy. I explained it to him so it’s no problem. Usually I don’t explain substitutions at half-time but I thought it made sense.
“It’s just good to have him; the free-kick was outstanding. That’s good. The whole team was not used to what we did today. As a new player, usually you struggle most but he didn’t – he tried everything. The only problem was defensively. Offensively, it was a good idea but, how I said, we have to work on that more often. But he was good and I liked it.”
Despite the unfortunate pull at halftime, Shaqiri had an impressive debut and looks to be a player that Klopp can count on this season to provide much-needed depth for his squad as they look to attack on four fronts.