Getting into this Liverpool side is hard. This side, which can legitimately claim to be the best in the world, has world class players all over the pitch.
When his number was called on Thursday night, Takumi Minamino had the unenviable task of filling in for Sadio Mane. There’s “world class talent” and then there’s “finished fourth in Ballon d’Or voting.”
Minamino wasn’t quite to Mane’s standard—and to be fair, who is at the moment?—but he didn’t look completely out of place either. And he’s hoping to learn from that first performance, and kick on in the future.
“I feel the manager’s trust in me, so I really want to repay him,” Minamino told the club’s official website after the match. “Personally, I’m not satisfied with my own performance [at Wolves], so I want to meet the expectations of the people who support me.
“I was mentally ready to go and all I was thinking was how to fit into the team smoothly and get into the game.
“I don’t feel any pressure. I’m not sure how much expectation has been put on me, but I have nothing to lose.”
Whether or not he feels pressure from Klopp, it’s clear that he feels pressure from himself. And he should. These Reds are soaring to heights never seen by any Liverpool outfit, and rarely—if ever—seen by another English side. As I said, it’s not easy to fit in.
Minamino felt even more pressure after Wolves equalized. He didn’t want a blemish on his Premier League debut, especially after Liverpool have been basically perfect this whole campaign.
“They scored an equalizer after I came on,” Minamino continued, “so I was desperate to contribute to the winning goal in any way I can.
“After we scored the second goal, I made sure to keep it simple and defend solidly.”
I’m sure we’ll see a lot more from Minamino as he continues to learn the system, and earns the trust of his teammates around him. For now, being there, playing hard, and nailing the basics will put him in good stead.