John Gibbons: Has Xherdan Shaqiri cemented a place as a Liverpool starter?

There’s no doubt that Xherdan Shaqiri impressed John Gibbons on Wednesday night and he feels the Swiss could be a fine starting option for the Reds…

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Last night’s game felt like a breakthrough in lots of ways.

For the team, it was the first time since the opening day of the season they had scored four goals in a game. Regardless of your thoughts on the standard of the opposition (I actually thought they looked alright), it was great to see a return to attacking cohesion, creating chances and scoring goals after a run of cagey performances and tight results.

It was much more of what we have become used to.

There were individual milestones too. Mo Salah became the fastest player to score 50 goals in Liverpool’s history. Which is remarkable when you consider the quality and quantity of brilliant attacking players Liverpool have had.

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It’s taken him just 65 games, which is 19 games quicker than Fernando Torres, 22 quicker than Ian Rush and 29 quicker than Robbie Fowler. And they were all really, really good at kicking the ball in the goal.

It was also a night to remember for Fabinho, making just his second start for Liverpool since his £40m summer move. Jurgen Klopp has been holding the Brazilian back a bit so far, but on last night’s evidence he looks ready to be unleashed on the Premier League.

He made nine tackles in the game, the second highest by any player in the Champions League this season, as well as two key passes and wining all six aerial duels. Defensively he was a rock and he was a threat bursting forward too.

I don’t think he’ll have as long to wait for his next start.

But, I wonder whether when we look back at this win it will be remembered as the game Xherdan Shaqiri cemented his place in Liverpool’s starting eleven.

In only his fourth start, and one of those only lasted 45 minutes, Shaqiri excelled in a deeper role than he might have expected when signing in the summer. He was constantly involved and seemed to relish the opportunity of being midfield playmaker rather than having the burden of goalscorer he ended up with at Stoke.

His role in both the first two goals was critical.

He’d already played a gorgeous ball over the top for Mo Salah in the opening minutes that the Egyptian forward couldn’t quite get past the ‘keeper.

Liverpool were soon in front though, and it was Shaqiri’s work rate that won them the ball back before playing a gorgeous pass in the channel for Andy Robertson to find Firmino to score.

The second is an even nicer pass, taking up a great position and cushioning it first time right into the path of Salah to make it 2-0.

It is the weight of Shaqiri’s passing that is so impressive. Good passers of the ball always hit their mark, but great passers put it exactly where they want it to go.

For both goals, Shaqiri couldn’t have put the ball in a better position if he’d have picked it up and plonked it there himself. It’s a very rare skill, to be that talented with your feet.

The squad seem to enjoy playing with Shaqiri, and why wouldn’t they?

He’s exceeded expectations in terms of work rate and general team ethic.

Rather than competing for the limelight, he seems to be revelling in the fact that he is playing with a higher level of player this season.

We might not see the same attacking line up in every game this season. Arsenal next week, for example, might see Xherdan Shaqiri drop to the bench for a more robust midfield.

But Liverpool drew seven home games at home last season, many to teams they should have beat.

Maybe Shaqiri is the man to unlock those packed defences.

Our way of getting another attacking player on the pitch, but still maintaining a shape to control the game.

Either way it’s another option for Jurgen, very much one he hasn’t had since Coutinho left. He’ll welcome the extra weapon at his disposal.

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