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Takumi Minamino’s post-lockdown promise – and how he can build on it at Liverpool

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Though he only played the first 45 minutes, Takumi Minamino produced an impressive display against Everton, and Keifer MacDonald believes it is the start of a bright future.

Sunday night marked Liverpool‘s return to Premier League action, as they picked up another point on the road to their first Premier League title.

As football returned to a ‘new normal’ on its resumption from the pandemic-forced break, Liverpool’s performance continued the running theme of dull and bleak encounters at Goodison Park over the past few seasons.

On the whole, a draw was more than a fair result, with Carlo Ancelotti’s side having the better chances to take all three points with a late flurry.

The biggest talking point from the Liverpool camp came as the team news was announced and Mo Salah found himself only fit enough for the substitutes’ bench.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, June 21, 2019: Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino walks out before the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 236th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Takumi Minamino was subsequently handed his first league start and his performance has divided opinion.

Minamino’s start to life on Merseyside has been similar to any signing we’ve seen under Jurgen Klopp: time is key.

The physical demand on an individual playing for a side managed by Klopp is something that can take months to become fully comfortable with, let alone the tactical side.

It is clear to see that Minamino has been utilising the gym during the Premier League’s unexpected break in order to bulk himself up; a fragility and weakness was something he had been criticised for during some of his earlier performances.

On reflection to his first-half display at Goodison, it appears Liverpool have got their hands on a very intelligent player and someone who clearly understands what is required in his role.

Although it took him time to really settle into the game, during the latter stages of the first half he started to become more involved and was gradually acclimatising to the match.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, June 21, 2019: Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 236th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We saw how he harries defenders and constantly looks busy, and he caused the Everton defence some problems down the right-hand side with some nice interplay and link-up with the likes of Naby Keita, when he chose to drift slightly more infield.

It was certainly one of the better performances we have seen from the 25-year-old in his handful of appearances since his winter switch to Anfield.

He was much more effective in his role of coming in from the right-hand side and acting almost like an inside forward, rather than being stuck to the right wing with chalk on his boots.

As it looks like there will be minimal incomings at Anfield this summer, Minamino is expected to be one of those to benefit from Liverpool’s decision not to sign Timo Werner.

He is expected to have a prominent role to play in the squad next season, with his versatility across the front line being a huge asset to Klopp.

For someone who is no stranger to being deployed as a centre-forward, he could provide backup for Roberto Firmino.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, June 21, 2019: Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 236th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is clear that, like Firmino, he possesses that spatial awareness and intelligence to make selfless and clever runs in order to open up space by dragging out defenders.

It was a huge shame to see him replaced at the break, as he was only starting to gauge the rhythm of the match.

When asked later about the substitution, Klopp explained how the change had been pre-planned and was not a reflection of the former Salzburg man’s performance.

With it being the first league game since March 7, and with the fixtures coming thick and fast, it is no surprise Klopp used all five changes permitted to make due help minimise injuries.

Klopp also stressed prior to the match that the Japanese international looks “much more settled now.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 11, 2020: Liverpool's new signing Japan international Takumi Minamino (R) celebrates with captain Jordan Henderson after the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

That comment highlights the efforts that Minamino has made off the field during lockdown, as it has been reported he is having intensive English lessons to help him adapt to life at Liverpool and make it easier for himself and his team-mates.

It will be interesting to see how Klopp looks to deploy him in the final eight games of the season, with the league title expected to be won in the coming weeks.

It would leave the manager in a healthy position to try and ease the likes of Minamino into the side ahead of next season’s campaign, without hampering their chances of breaking the 100-point record set by Pep Guardiola’s Man City in 2018.


* This is a guest article for This Is Anfield. If you’d like to contribute a piece for consideration please see this page. You can follow Keifer on Twitter @KeiferMacd.


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