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Xherdan Shaqiri

Stoke City to Liverpool, £13.5m

Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri moved to Liverpool after a three-year spell with Stoke City that ended with relegation to the Championship in 2018. He scored 15 goals in 84 Premier League appearances for Stoke, having made a £12m move from Inter Milan, and in his first season at Anfield a further six in 30 in all competitions. The 27-year-old also has 22 goals in 82 appearances for Switzerland, and played a key role in his nation’s run to the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The diminutive but stocky Shaqiri began his career with Basel in Switzerland, where he moved with his family shortly after his birth in Kosovo, then part of the former Yugoslavia. Three league titles in three seasons with the dominant force in Swiss football led to a move to Bayern Munich, where under Jupp Heynckes he was part of the squad to win the club’s first ever treble of the Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League – although he was often used as back-up for Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, and remained an unused sub in the Champions League final victory over Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund.

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A short spell at Inter came before his time at Stoke, which itself was ended when Liverpool triggered his £13.5m release clause in the wake of their relegation. He immediately endeared himself to fans of his new club with a stunning overhead kick against rivals Manchester United (above) in a pre-season friendly in the United States, and Shaqiri inherited the number 23 shirt previously worn by only three Liverpool players in Premier League history – Robbie Fowler, Jamie Carragher and Emre Can.

Tactical analysis
Shaqiri has several strengths that make him suited to Liverpool. He is terrific at running with the ball at speed and is capable of changing direction with ease, which means he can ease past defenders. He is also an excellent set-piece taker and is more effective than most when shooting from distance.

Although left-footed, Shaqiri predominantly operates in the right half-space and can similarly often be found in central areas. He likes to cut inside and bend the ball in either as a cross or a shot (above), which gives his teammates the trigger to make their runs beyond the opposition’s defence.

When play is building on the left it is common to see Shaqiri delay until the latest opportunity, before joining in (below). He allows the attackers in front of him to make threatening runs beyond the back line and leaving space on the edge of the penalty area into which he looks to arrive late and with menace. He is also capable of running in behind and linking up with forwards through clever movement and combination play.

Shaqiri has very few technical deficiencies, but at 5ft 7ins he is regularly the smallest player on the pitch and can therefore be nullified in a direct game – something that at Klopp’s Liverpool is rarely a concern. His lack of an aerial threat is rarely an issue at attacking set-plays – largely because he is potentially delivering from them – while at defensive set-pieces he is often left forward as a counter-attacking option.

While Shaqiri has been the main attacking threat at Stoke in recent years, he will need to improve his productivity in front of goal in order to impress at Liverpool.  He has never scored more than 10 club goals in a season at any stage of his career; perhaps after a year to adjust to Klopp’s demands at Liverpool, and granted more regular playing time, he can finally achieve this.

Role this season
Shaqiri will continue to have extreme difficulty in displacing Mo Salah as Liverpool’s attacking right-sided option. The similarly-influential Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are also likely to retain their places in that potent front three. Yet the intensity of Klopp’s playing style, the manager’s tendency to give new signings long periods to assimilate his ideas, the number of fixtures played throughout the season in all competitions, and the sheer volume of football played by the front three could well mean him making even more regular appearances.

The Swiss is capable of excelling either as the wide attacker on the right in a 4-3-3, or as a more conventional number 10 in a 4-2-3-1. He has also operated as one of the two more advanced midfielders in a 4-3-3, but similarly to in the final third, Liverpool have multiple options in those positions.

Xherdan Shaqiri

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