According to reports from The Guardian, Liverpool have joined the race to sign Stoke City midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri following the club’s relegation which has triggered a release clause in his contract.
There’s no debating the Switzerland international’s natural ability or the fact last season was his best to date in the Premier League, finishing up with eight goals and seven assists despite his side tumbling out of the top flight.
But is he the right fit for the Reds and would the 26-year-old represent money well spent? Football FanCast take a look at the potential consequences, some positive and some negative, of a Shaqiri switch to Anfield this summer.
Shaqiri’s a fantastical natural talent with real pedigree but to say he’s a little workshy would be putting it modestly. In fairness, he’s simply not the kind of player cut out for relegation battles, but he has a worrying knack for drifting in and out of games rather than consistently grabbing them by the scruff of the neck. That’s largely due to his limited energy and work-rate, despite boasting a powerful and stocky frame, and Jurgen Klopp needs to consider how that will affect Liverpool’s philosophy.
The Reds have become synonymous with pressing high under the former Dortmund boss, who used the same tactic with great success at Westfalenstadion too, but Shaqiri isn’t naturally suited to that style of defending from the front – he simply doesn’t have the appetite for it. That could take away much of Liverpool’s intensity in the final third, and some of the verve that makes this Reds team such a feared proposition – especially for high-quality opposition.
Squad depth was a serious issue for Klopp last season and one can only speculate how Liverpool’s Champions League final would have panned out had there been a better replacement for Mohamed Salah than Adam Lallana. The forward line is particularly shallow and Shaqiri, albeit not the fastest of attackers, has the versatility to plug up gaps on the wide berths when necessary.
He’d certainly be an improvement on what Klopp already has to bring on from the bench, but signing a proven senior player always makes it that bit harder for some of the youngsters a little lower down the pecking order. In this instance, Harry Wilson – who grabbed seven goals in 13 Championship appearances for Hull last season – and 18-year-old Ben Woodburn, one of Liverpool’s most exciting young talents, are the likeliest to feel the pinch in terms of game-time, which will inevitably hamper their development.
And in some ways it’s a question of what suits Klopp best. Yes, Shaqiri is a decent addition to the squad, but the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson have highlighted the impact the Liverpool boss often has on young players. Not giving Woodburn and Wilson the chance to step up could prove to be a real mistake.
Probably Liverpool’s most frustrating problem over the last five years, preceding Klopp’s arrival, has been their recurring inability to break down physical teams with deep-sitting, organised defences. Even last season, Liverpool failed to beat Burnley, Newcastle, West Brom, Swansea and Stoke, almost all of whom were far closer to the relegation battle than the top six come the end of the campaign.
The Reds’ inability to unlock those kinds of defensive blocks became even more prevalent after Philippe Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona in January, but Shaqiri could be the perfect candidate to arrest that issue.
The 69-cap international is capable of working in tight spaces, providing that killer pass or scoring an absolute belter from long-range, the latter of which makes deep-lying defensive setups almost irrelevant. In addition to depth, that’s probably the greatest quality Shaqiri would bring to this Liverpool side.
So, Liverpool fans, would you back a swoop for Shaqiri? Let us know by voting below…