Liverpool have significantly strengthened this summer with the arrival of Alisson, Naby Keita and Fabinho but the addition of Swiss International Xherdan Shaqiri looks their shrewdest bit of business. The playmaker impressed for Stoke last season despite the Potters suffering relegation to the Championship and the 26-year old can flourish in a forward- thinking expansive Reds side.
Shaqiri was Stoke’s standout performer last year, netting eight times, chalking up seven assists and creating over 70 chance for his teammates. The Potters scored just 35 goals during the course of the campaign with the diminutive schemer playing a part in 43% of those Strikes. At times, he cut a frustrated figure at the Bet365 Stadium but his quality was evident and very few of his teammates appeared to be on the same wavelength.
He was originally recruited as back-up and was expected to be a fringe player this season but his pre-season form has given Jurgen Klopp a selection headache and the German boss has some difficult decisions to make ahead of their Premier League opener. He netted a stunning bicycle kick against Manchester United during their pre-season tour of America and also claimed an assist earlier in the contest. They paid £13 million for his services and he could turn out to be bargain of the season if he continues to perform at this level.
Liverpool’s starting XI is likely to pick itself this season with Shaqiri competing with James Milner, Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum for one remaining spot in midfield. On current form, he must be the favourite to lock down that position.
With a flurry of additions, Liverpool are expected to improve upon last season’s fourth-place finish in the Premier League. Jurgen Klopp has been backed by the board and supporters are demanding more. They reached the Champions League final but weren’t able to secure any silverware and it will go down as a largely underwhelming campaign. They’ve been priced up as second favourites for the title in the Premier League betting markets and can be backed at 4/1. Manchester City, who triumphed by 19 points last year have understandably been installed as the 4/6 favourites.
Shaqiri is likely to relish playing behind a front three of Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino with all three forwards returning unscathed from the World Cup 2018. He will provide plenty of ammunition for the deadly trio and the Reds should be free-scoring once again. They netted 84 times last season and are likely to surpass that total this time around.
He appears to have been given a new lease of life at Liverpool and that should help Shaqiri flourish in Merseyside. On the evidence of pre-season, he appears to have rediscovered his mojo and he could be a major weapon in the club’s quest for top-flight superiority. He will be helped by being surrounded by quality players and although many fans suspected he may be warming the bench this campaign, on current form, it may be difficult to leave him out of the side.