At half-time of Liverpool’s victory over Leicester on Wednesday evening, it felt like we were witnessing another insignificant moment in Wataru Endo‘s early Anfield career.
That is no criticism of the Japanese; most players do not adapt to a new club and a new league straight away, and so find it tricky to make an impact on their initial outings.
This can be complicated by the changes any person would experience in moving city, or even country, with Endo’s wife and four children only recently joining him on Merseyside.
When that happens, those first games in the red shirt end up being little more than opportunities to learn, rather than chances for the player to show what they are about – a category it seemed Wednesday’s fixture would fall into for Endo.
If there was any frustration with the 30-year-old halfway through this latest start, it was that there was a familiar tentativeness to his performance.
Only last week, Klopp said of Endo: “Wataru is a super guy, very calm and very polite and that cost him the first two weeks, maybe. That’s now getting there.”
And against the Foxes, it seemed that he was again falling into the trap of allowing the 90 minutes to pass him by.
But then the half-time break came, after which Endo reappeared looking like a man determined to announce his arrival as a Liverpool player.
He ended the game as a key architect in yet another come-from-behind 3-1 win for the Reds, managing a match-leading four interceptions and a very tidy 90.4 percent pass completion rate.
And, though it may seem odd to highlight as a positive, the four fouls he made (more than any other player on the pitch) also felt encouraging.
The hesitance that Klopp had previously commented on was long gone, replaced by a fight that perhaps showed that Endo wears a gum shield for good reason.
This was particularly evident in a crunching tackle on Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall that was quickly followed by him setting up Szoboszlai for a shot from range (one of two key passes from Liverpool’s No. 3 on the night).
There was also a cerebral quality to many of his interventions, with both Cody Gakpo‘s goal and that memorable strike from Szoboszlai coming in the aftermath of Endo being in the right place at the right time as Leicester tried to clear.
It is this mix of craft and graft that might allow the Japan captain to become more than just a go-to starter in secondary cup competitions for Liverpool going forward.
Given much of his first five outings for the club had made it difficult to envisage such an outcome, the sixth felt like a major step forward.