The day Xherdan Shaqiri played left-back and “shut down” the top scorer in Switzerland

28 August 2019

Xherdan Shaqiri‘s peripheral role at Liverpool is often perceived as being due to a lack of defensive awareness, but he has proved himself at left-back in the past.


Shaqiri is yet to feature in a competitive game for the Reds this season, with Divock Origi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain preferred to the Swiss as backups in attack.

The biggest reservation many fans have over the 27-year-old is his ability off the ball, with Jurgen Klopp‘s decision to withdraw him at half-time of last season’s 3-0 win at home to Southampton seemingly stemming from this.

“As a new player, usually you struggle most but he didn’t—he tried everything,” the manager explained after the game. “The only problem was defensively.”

The belief within the club is that Shaqiri remains an important player, and Klopp has insisted he is set for increased game time as the busier periods of the season approach.

But if there are any issues with his defensive ability, he certainly didn’t show that when deployed in an unorthodox role as left-back in his early days at Basel.

Speaking to Goal, Heiko Vogel reflected on a 2-0 victory over Young Boys in 2010—when he was working as assistant manager at Basel—and how Shaqiri shone in an unlikely position.

Xherdan Shaqiri came up with an incredible amount of potential, was instantly integrated and did a great job,” Vogel explained.

“In the first championship year, it was incredibly close.

“On the last day we had an away game at Young Boys, who were [three points behind in second].

“Shaqiri played as a left-back against Seydou Doumbia, who had scored over 30 goals that season.

“Shaq completely shut him down, and played an outstanding game.”

ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 3, 2018: Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri with a ball in hands in the Knockout Stage Round of 16 football match between Sweden and Switzerland at Saint Petersburg Stadium (Krestovsky Stadium) at FIFA World Cup Russia 2018; Sweden won 1-0. Alexander Demianchuk/TASS

This is certainly an interesting example from Vogel, with the majority of Shaqiri’s senior career spent as a winger with a decidedly attacking bent; or, for Switzerland, further inside as a No. 10.

It is highly unlikely that he would be considered as an option at left-back for Liverpool, particularly as there is little indication he will even be fielded centrally again.

But there is clearly potential for Shaqiri to operate more defensively, and this should perhaps encourage those concerned by his positional sense.

However, it should be noted that this game was almost a decade ago, and the situation could have changed drastically since 2010.

Basel ended the season as champions of the Swiss Super League, with Shaqiri going on to make 130 appearances for the club before his €11.6 million move to Bayern Munich in 2012.

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