Xherdan Shaqiri‘s slow start to the season may be due to Liverpool’s No. 23 retraining in a new position, with Jurgen Klopp describing him as a “real option.”
Shaqiri is yet to start for the Reds in 2019/20, and has played just 11 minutes over two appearances in the Premier League so far—as a substitute in the last two games.
His most recent outing was the most interesting, as the 27-year-old replaced Gini Wijnaldum in the closing stages of the 3-1 win over Newcastle to operate as part of the midfield three.
With Shaqiri stationed alongside Fabinho and James Milner, he provided a late supply line for Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
It was an unlikely role, as Klopp has previously expressed concerns over his ability to fulfil the defensive requirements, but it came after an international break spent at Melwood, having opted out of Switzerland duty.
And addressing the depth and competition within his squad, the manager explained that Shaqiri had been “training for a couple of weeks” as an advanced midfielder.
“The competition in this team is really big. If the lineup is not performing, [those in reserve] are really there,” he said.
“As an example, Shaq is brought in in that position where he has been training for a couple of weeks now. He is so creative. He is a real option.”
Klopp added that “if you have one good game and another good game the dynamic changes,” which suggests that if Shaqiri maintains consistency he could take up a bigger role in the squad.
Dejan Lovren, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were also held up as examples, as Klopp continued: “You should see training. They all want to make sure [I know], ‘I am ready, you can use me’.”
This comes at a vital stage for Liverpool, as they head into the busiest period of the campaign, amid a run of seven games in just 21 days.
With injury to Divock Origi ruling the Belgian out for “between one and two weeks,” according to Klopp, this opens up more opportunities for those battling for places.
Another would be Rhian Brewster, who is expected to fill the void left by Origi as one of the backups to the Reds’ first-choice forward line.
But as the likes of Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson require rest in the coming games, Shaqiri could come into the frame on a more regular basis, with his creativity in the middle of the park an invaluable outlet.