Liverpool recorded a monumental victory over Manchester United on Sunday and can attest to delivering the defeat that proved terminal to Jose Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford – the Portuguese was sacked on Tuesday morning, much to the delight of United fans.
The Reds recorded a season-high tally of 36 shots on goal as they battered Mourinho’s men from start to finish, despite the score being level for 4o minutes after Jesse Lingard cancelled out Sadio Mane’s opener – that is until Xherdan Shaqiri entered the fray with 20 minutes of regulation time remaining.
The Swiss bagged a brace – albeit not without the help of a decisive deflection on each strike – scoring just three minutes after his introduction before netting his side’s third seven minutes later to take all three points and, thus, establish himself in Anfield history.
However, few predicted the winger would have such an impact after his £13m switch from relegated Stoke in the summer, with the general consensus being that he would hardly feature unless Mohamed Salah sustained an injury and that he was just a budget Nabil Fekir – Liverpool were linked extensively with the French playmaker but failed to get a deal over the line.
But, with five goals and and two assists in 13 appearances, the 27-year-old is proving to be one of the bargain buys of the summer and, perhaps, Jurgen Klopp’s best signing since Salah.
Alisson has indeed had an enormous impact on Liverpool – the Brazilian is a massive upgrade on both Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet but, despite the points the ‘keeper’s super-saves may have won his side this season, the strength in depth that Shaqiri gives the Reds and his ability to change the game off the bench is what will keep them on Manchester City’s level.
You would struggle to pick City’s strongest XI, such is the quality and depth of Pep Guardiola’s squad and the Spaniard’s consequential ability to rotate means that they have a huge advantage on their ill-equipped rivals, particularly at this stage of the season when fixtures come thick and fast.
Shaqiri – who Transfermarkt value at £22.5million – not only has the ability to change the game coming off the bench, as he did against the Red Devils, but also gives Klopp the opportunity to use a wider variety of formations – this makes them far less predictable as they can play with a five-man midfield or use the signature 4-3-3 with equal effect.
The diminutive left-footer will rarely steal the headlines from Liverpool’s famous front three, but he can become Klopp’s biggest asset as the season rolls on should he continue to display the desire to make a difference, especially with fellow summer arrival Naby Keita failing to live up to the hype so far.
The Guinean should ideally fill the boots of Phillipe Coutinho, who departed Anfield in January for Barcelona – a hard-working, technical midfielder who regularly chips in with goals and assists. However, the 23-year-old is yet to net in red and was particularly ineffective on Sunday as he took on just one shot and completed a single key pass before being hooked.
Liverpool have struggled to replace Coutinho since his big money move at the start of the year, but in Shaqiri they have the closest they can get for just a fraction of the Brazilian’s price.