With Swiss playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri announced officially as a Liverpool player it is difficult to envision where he will feature under head coach Jürgen Klopp.
While he could take up the number ten role in Klopp’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, a position Liverpool have no obvious candidate for following Philippe Coutinho’s winter switch to Barcelona, this may cause his current system some problems.
Following the aforementioned departure, the German coach switched to a more balanced 4-3-3, anchored by captain Jordan Henderson, with January acquisition Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the versatile James Milner either side, while Dutchman Georginio Wijnaldum provided backup from the bench when called upon.
Further up front was the rapid and clinical front three of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.
With Oxlade-Chamberlain injured, and with Henderson and Milner truthfully being nowhere near the quality required for a title push, Klopp could revert back to the formation he implemented successfully at Dortmund. New signings Fabinho and Naby Keita may be pivotal.
Fabinho could be deployed as a holding midfielder alongside Keita in a two man midfield, with Keita acting as a box-to-box midfielder, allowing for Shaqiri to play ‘in the hole’, flanked by Mané and Salah, and Firmino at the tip of the attack.
The problem that may arise here can be linked back to Coutinho’s tendencies in this role. When deployed in the middle, Coutinho naturally drifted over to the left to cut in on his natural right foot.
This in turn dragged the right sided centre-half out of position, creating a one-on-one for Roberto Firmino, and also allowing winger Sadio Mané to isolate the opposition full-back.
If Shaqiri does indeed drift over to his natural wing position to cut in on to his left foot, as he often has done for Stoke City, he may interfere with and hamper the overall game of Liverpool’s best player, Mohamed Salah.
Due to his consistently wonderful performances for Liverpool last season, fans will be expecting the same miracles from Salah this year, and if Shaqiri disrupts this, it is no secret as to who the fans would call to be dropped.
The second problem may arise from Shaqiri’s persistence with playing first team football.
He took a pay cut to leave European giants Bayern Munich and join Inter Milan and subsequently Stoke City, all because he was frequently omitted from the starting eleven due to the quality of left-footed right winger Arjen Robben, an obstacle he may now be faced with again at Liverpool.
If Klopp sticks with his 4-3-3 or even finds another player to play in his number 10 role, Shaqiri has no chance of dislodging Salah from that right wing position.
With Liverpool fans desperately calling out for an improved midfield and defence, Klopp has dramatically improved the former with players somewhat consistently playing at international level and that can be included in that world class bracket.
If he could sign a world class goalkeeper and reinforce his defence, while keeping the requisite players happy with game time, Liverpool could potentially mount a serious title challenge this forthcoming season.