Livewire Xherdan Shaqiri earns the spotlight on his first Liverpool start 3 years ago

Livewire Xherdan Shaqiri earns the spotlight on his first Liverpool start

In the end, Anfield only received a spoonful of Xherdan Shaqiri, yet it was incredibly satisfying

The Switzerland international served up a first Liverpool start heaped with boldness and effectiveness to help his side construct a 3-0 advantage against Southampton by half-time, empowering Jurgen Klopp to replace him at the interval and control proceedings.


The pocket rocket - stationed behind Mohamed Salah in a fresh 4-2-3-1 formation - had done exactly what was required of him; breaking down the blockade the visitors implemented and making life as uncomfortable as possible for his markers.

For the previous games against West Ham, Leicester and Paris Saint-Germain, Shaqiri had to settle for a bit-part role which consisted of a combined 32 minutes.

Thrice he wasn’t involved at all (the victories against Crystal Palace, Brighton, Tottenham), but there was little doubt he would own his first real opportunity.

Collectively, however, Liverpool struggled with their defensive duties in the new shape against Southampton, having not been able to fully work on it in training due to the gale-force winds and blustery showers that swept Merseyside on Friday.

With a three-goal cushion and a packed, testing schedule that consists of facing Chelsea twice, travelling to Napoli and then hosting Manchester City, Klopp made a calculated change.


"I told Shaq at half-time that I’ve never had to substitute such an influential player who didn’t have an injury,” he said of the decision to bring on James Milner to solidify the midfield.

"It was not easy, to be honest. It’s my job to sometimes deliver news nobody wants to hear.

"That’s how it was at half-time, but he is a fantastic boy. I explained it to him so it’s no problem. Usually I don’t explain substitutions at half-time, but I thought it made sense in this case. It’s just good to have him. The whole team was not used to what we did today.

"As a new player, usually you struggle most but he didn’t – he tried everything. The only problem was defensively. Offensively, it was a good idea but, how I said, we have to work on that more often. But he was good and I liked it."


When Shaqiri went off, it seemed like the life of the game followed him. Liverpool, who have won their opening seven fixtures of a season for the first time ever, will require that kind of vivacity to compete on multiple fronts.

Before Southampton could find their bearings at Anfield, Shaqiri had navigated space, inviting a ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold, which he then lofted into the box for Roberto Firmino.

It was a touch to high for the Brazil international, but Mark Hughes had motioned to his players to keep a closer eye on the drifting 26-year-old, who he has in-depth knowledge of.

Having recruited Shaqiri in August 2015 while in charge at Stoke, a player he once called their "main instigator of attacking threat" morphed into that for Liverpool on Saturday afternoon.


"You sense that maybe something's going to happen," Hughes once summed up of Shaqiri’s effect. "I think the whole team responds to that, I think the crowd senses it as well, and I know opposition teams sense it too."

Southampton certainly knew they were in trouble when he took possession on.

On 10 minutes, after they had failed to clear a corner, Liverpool’s No.23 made a smart run and received an equally intelligent pass from Mane.


He cut in from the left to shoot and his right-footed effort deflected off Shane Long and then hit Wesley Hoedt as Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy unsuccessfully scrambled to keep it from going over the line.

Shaqiri, arms folded and sporting a gigantic grin, was only getting started.

Just before the break, after a towering header from Joel Matip off Alexander-Arnold’s corner had doubled Liverpool’s advantage, he stepped into the spotlight again.

His left-footed strike from a free kick outside the box, which Klopp labelled "absolutely outstanding," was unfortunate to be thwarted by the underside of the bar.

However, Salah - in need of a goal to quell the largely ridiculous talk about his form - reacted quickest to convert.

"I had the benefit of his excellent free-kicks for a long time, but unfortunately it was against us today," Hughes said post-match.

"I am pleased for Shaq. He was always convinced he could play for a big six club, but I managed to persuade him to come to Stoke and we had some great times there before we both went our separate ways.

"He is a great lad, a good character in the group and I'm sure he will be a success here."

If Shaqiri has started as he means to go on, that’ll certainly be the case.