You would think that after winning the Champions League, and dropping just two points in your opening 17 league fixtures, that there isn’t much that needs to be improved about this Liverpool side.
However, Liverpool’s midfield has been a bone of contention ever since Philippe Coutinho departed for Barcelona. It has been described as a functional part of the team, in contrast to one full of technicians when compared with the likes of Manchester City.
It shows you how much forward planning goes on at the Reds that sporting director Michael Edwards and manager Jurgen Klopp have opted to make their move for Takumi Minamino now.
The Japanese international has some unique traits which the club’s current midfielders don’t possess, so let’s look at what he can offer the team which is different to Liverpool’s current group of midfielders.
In midfield, since the start of last season, Jordan Henderson has created the most goals for his teammates (5), more than Naby Keita (2), Xherdan Shaqiri (4), Georginio Wijnaldum (0), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (0) and Adam Lallana (0).
In the same timeframe, Minamino has managed 14. The Japanese international may not always play in the midfield three but having played regularly as a no.10, it is likely he’ll be employed there at times over the coming months and years. He’ll certainly provide an important creative outlet if and when he is selected there.
2) Key passes
Passes leading to goals don’t always tell the whole story, but another metric that can tell how creative a player truly is key passes. Minamino averages 0.7 per game for Red Bull Salzburg over the past 18 months in all competitions.
The best Liverpool’s midfield can come up with is Shaqiri with 0.64. We have seen, though, that Klopp doesn’t necessarily trust the Swiss man to play in central areas due to his lack of positional discipline. He is unlikely to have the same issue with his new signing.
3) Defensive Work Rate
Klopp has already praised the Japanese’s work off the ball in his first words welcoming the midfielder to the club:
“Takumi is a very quick, very clever player, he finds space between the lines. He is brave with the ball but also brave without the ball – a proper team player. He makes the best of himself for the benefit of others.”
And the statistics bear out the Liverpool manager’s assertion. Minamino averages 5.73 defensive duels per 90 minutes (compared to Shaqiri’s 4.4). He also averages 0.4 tackles per 90 (compared to Shaqiri’s 0.15)
To put that into context, over the course of a 38 match league campaign, the club’s new signing would be involved in 51 more defensive duels than Shaqiri and nine more tackles.
As you can see, Minamino has the creativity combined with the work ethic that none of the club’s current crop of midfield stars currently possess. Whether he can translate those numbers to the Premier League, we shall see.