This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Xherdan Shaqiri faces a big season at Liverpool.
The winger, signed from Stoke City last summer, made 30 appearances in all competitions as the Reds attempted to chase down Manchester City at the top of the Premier League and won the Champions League.
He also played four times in Europe and once each in the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup.
His most telling contribution, of course, came in the scarcely believable 4-0 win over Barcelona in the Champions League; he registered an assist in that game as the Reds booked their flight to Madrid, where they would win the trophy at Tottenham Hotspur’s expense.
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Yet, to dig a little deeper is to see a player who was nothing more than a rotation option.
He had 11 starts in the top-flight and completed the 90 minutes just four times.
Now, of course, he is playing behind Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Any player would find it difficult to make his way into the Reds’ starting XI.
But one has to ask if Shaqiri actually enjoyed any real influence when he was on the pitch outside of that Barcelona game.
Per Understat, he averaged 2.23 shots-per-90 and 1.72 key passes-per-90, meaning a pass leading to a shot.
His expected goals (xG) statistic was 4.06, meaning that he over-performed in front of goal and actually scored goals that he shouldn’t have.
His expected assists (xA) stat was 1.89; those he assisted were being superbly clinical when he passed them the ball.
Shaqiri averaged 0.35xG-per-90 and 0.16xA-per-90.
A good comparison here would be Divock Origi, the striker who has emerged as an excellent back-up to the fabled front three.
Again, per Understat, in 12 Premier League appearances – four were starts – he scored three goals and registered one assist.
He averaged 3.28 shots-per-90 and 0.76 key passes-per-90. He had an xG of 2.24, which he outperformed, and an xA of 0.19, again which he outperformed.
He averaged 0.57xG-per-90 and an xA-per-90 of 0.05.
Shaqiri, clearly, is a more useful distributor of the ball but Origi is a more clinical option.
Both are forwards and the key for Liverpool is that their forwards can interchange with fluidity and swap positions. Salah scored 27 goals in all competitions, Mane scored 26 and Firmino scored 16. That’s a combined 69 goals.
If Shaqiri is to be kept around by manager Jurgen Klopp and if he is to make an impact next season, he simply must improve his output.
He is clearly a good forward; Liverpool would not have signed him had he not been thoroughly scouted and vetted.
But where Origi has taken his chances when he has come onto the pitch, one feels that Shaqiri has struggled with his consistency.
His statistics are not as good as they need to be and if he is to gain more minutes, he has to improve.
Otherwise, one feels that Liverpool will not hesitate to cash in next summer.