Liverpool forward Takumi Minamino has emerged as an unlikely hero in recent weeks, popping up with some big goals in cup games – including a brace against Norwich City in the week – leading him to be dubbed a “new Luis Suarez” due to the former Kop hero’s history of also terrorising the Canaries.
The Japan international has netted a goal every 47 minutes this season in the Premier League, as well as a goal every 68 minutes in the FA Cup and every 77 minutes in the Carabao Cup – and it would be harsh to pin that all down to him mainly appearing off the bench when teams are already tired.
Reds boss Jurgen Klopp labelled him “incredible” after the match in midweek, while experienced midfielder James Milner also gave him some high praise, saying: “What a guy, what a player. He’s patient. Every time he comes in and he delivers.
“He just carried on. He’s brilliant in training. Great temperament. I’m absolutely delighted for him.”
The performance should be enough for Klopp to decide on giving him more chances in the Premier League from the start, beginning with this evening’s game against West Ham, where he could really give Pablo Fornals and Aaron Cresswell nightmares should he be given the nod.
Statistically, Minamino is one of the best wingers in the world right now at pressing high and defending from the front, ranking in the top 1% in Europe’s top five leagues and continental competitions for successful pressures with 7.88 per 90; and also for pressures in the middle third, with 12.82 per 90.
With an attack as good as Liverpool’s, it’s hard to pick a player to drop. However, one man who could benefit from a rest is Diogo Jota. The Portuguese forward has suffered a slight dip in form since his brace against Leicester in the second week of February, failing to register a goal or assist in his four games since.
The 25-year-old has featured in every single Liverpool league game since mid-October and covered well for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane while the star duo were at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Minamino’s recent form could provide Klopp with a good opportunity to not only rest Jota over the next few weeks, but also test out whether or not the 27-year-old can truly reach a new level of his game and put in some equally impressive performances in the Premier League with goals and assists.
If the Japanese maestro carries his cup form into this evening’s clash and is given an overdue first league start of the campaign, he could terrorise West Ham’s backline.