With Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané away at the Africa Cup of Nations, there were always going to be chances for Japanese international Takumi Minamino to show Liverpool fans and manager Jürgen Klopp what he could do when January rolled around.
After scoring a late equalizer to help get them to the League Cup semi-final late in December, Minamino has appeared in the last three games—twice off the bench and once starting—as he looks to gain sharpness, and so far Klopp likes what he’s seen.
“Coming on and being that much in the game and scoring was absolutely helpful for him and for us,” Klopp said of Minamino’s impact coming off the bench for Liverpool on Sunday. “It was very important. Taki’s in a good moment and it was very helpful.
Minamino has converted four of five clear cut chances this season, and the 27-year-old has six goals and an assist in 16 total appearances. It adds up to a goal involvement every 96 minutes for the Reds, an exceptional return by almost any standard.
About the only point of comparison that would make it look lacking is Mohamed Salah, with a goal involvement every 70 minutes for the Egyptian this season. Sadio Mané has had a goal involvement every 187 minutes. Diogo Jota is 134, Roberto Firmino 79.
Given those numbers, that he started on the bench on Sunday surprised some, but Klopp pointed to Minamino missing time earlier in the season and said it was simply a matter of looking to manage his minutes and build up his fitness and sharpness.
“Injury interrupts rhythm and all these kinds of things,” Klopp added. “He played the last game for all 90 minutes and now coming on. It was right for him with Thursday-Sunday. It’s not easy after coming back from injury, so that’s why he didn’t start.”