Liverpool v Everton: Shaqiri proving a cut-price Coutinho at Anfield

Philippe Coutinho's sale to Barcelona left Liverpool with a creativity chasm, but the arrival of Xherdan Shaqiri has helped the Reds.

Published : Nov 30, 2018 14:02 IST

Liverpool forward Xherdan Shaqiri
Liverpool forward Xherdan Shaqiri

Liverpool forward Xherdan Shaqiri

Eyebrows were raised when Liverpool plucked Xherdan Shaqiri from relegated Stoke City, but the Switzerland star has been a bargain buy for the Premier League title contender.

Arriving for a cut-price fee, reported to be £13.5million due to a clause in his Stoke contract, the 27-year-old has added much-needed versatility and depth to Liverpool's attacking options.

While Shaqiri is unlikely to usurp any of Liverpool's regular front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, he is undoubtedly an excellent player to have on the bench.

READ| Klopp backs 'unbelievably valuable' Firmino

Jurgen Klopp has even used Shaqiri as part of an attacking foursome at times, giving a fresh dimension to Liverpool's build-up play by asking the opposition defence different questions.

January's sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona was expected to have a negative impact on Liverpool but it has not proven to be the case, the Reds reaching the Champions League final and keeping pace with Premier League leader Manchester City this term.

Here, Omnisport examines Opta numbers to assess Shaqiri's start to life at Anfield ahead of his first Merseyside derby as a Liverpool player, at home to Everton on Sunday.

Shaqiri is taking his chance

Stoke may have been relegated but its downfall could not be blamed on Shaqiri, who scored eight goals and set up seven more in the Premier League last season for a goal involvement of one every 203.3 minutes.

This was an improvement on a goal involvement every 225.3 minutes in 2015-16 and 284.5 minutes in 2016-17, showing Shaqiri was improving with each season, earning the opportunity to stay in the English top flight.

READ| Shaqiri confident in more goals for Liverpool

In the early weeks of his time at Liverpool he has boosted those numbers again, recording two goals and two assists for a goal involvement every 95 minutes, although it must be pointed out the Reds are obviously better in attack than Stoke.

Shaqiri is creating a chance every 38 minutes in the Premier League, again an improvement on his three Stoke seasons, while his shot conversion rate has jumped from 11.6 per cent last term to 16.7 per cent this season.

In fact, that goal involvement ratio is better than Mane, Firmino and Salah have managed, while he is creating chances more often in the Premier League than any of the trio as well.

Liverpool a better side with Shaqiri?

Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates his goal against Cardiff City

Fitting Shaqiri into a side that has Mane, Firmino and Salah as mainstays is a challenge for Klopp, but the Opta numbers suggest the Reds play better in games in which he is involved.

In the four Premier League matches in which Shaqiri has not featured this term, Liverpool has scored an average of just 1.3 goals per game, compared to 2.3 goals a game when he has appeared.

However, this data includes goals in matches before Shaqiri has appeared in four substitute appearances.

Shaqiri compares favourably to Premier League's leading attacking midfielders

Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri in action against Leicester City

Taking Shaqiri's Opta numbers for this season and setting them against some of the other top attacking midfielders in the Premier League indicates he is performing at a very high level this term.

Comparing the Swiss star to Paul Pogba, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Ross Barkley, Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Christian Eriksen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, Shaqiri's impressive record of a goal involvement every 95 minutes in the Premier League is only bettered by Chelsea's England midfielder.

Barkley's 18.75 per cent shot conversion rate in the Premier League is also better than Shaqiri's 16.67 per cent, although the only others in this group to improve on the Liverpool man's figures are David Silva and Sigurdsson - another key man for this weekend's Merseyside derby.

Sigurdsson, David Silva and Eriksen all narrowly beat Shaqiri's record of creating a chance every 38 minutes in the Premier League this season and his passing accuracy of just 78.46 per cent does not compare well against the likes of Barkley at 91.48 per cent.

But all the Opta numbers indicate Shaqiri has been a very solid signing for Liverpool - and he is likely to have a key role to play against Everton.

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