Is Takumi Minamino good enough for Liverpool?
Background image: Zweifüssler, CC BY 2.0
After catching Jurgen Klopp's eye during the first group stage match between Liverpool and RB Salzburg in the Champions League, Takumi Minamino found himself packing his bags for Merseyside. Deployed on the left-wing in the Premier League and at centre-forward in the FA Cup, he struggles to shift out of first gear. Did the German manager jump the gun when he triggered the 25-year-old's £7.25 million release clause?
The forward did enough in UEFA’s blue-ribbon competition to warrant interest. Two goals and three assists in six games ranked him among the leaders in direct goal contributions. His numbers in the Austrian Bundesliga [5G/6A/14App] this campaign were equally compelling. Before changing clubs, Minamino sat a goal away from his 2018/19 total in 27 appearances and two off 2017/18 in 28. It can be argued Liverpool signed a player in a rich vein of form rather than one who had broken through.
Minamino was never going to establish himself in the Reds starting lineup, however. He claims three Premier League cameos to date, totalling 77 minutes. He played the full 90 in just one from three FA Cup outings. Unfortunately, that came in the 2-0 defeat to Chelsea in which he failed to register a single shot despite starting in the number nine role. In 85 minutes against Shrewsbury in the fourth round, Minamino managed one shot, off-target. His Salzburg form stagnated without regular playing time on Merseyside.
It’s not easy to slip seamlessly into a side as dominant as Liverpool, especially when Klopp demands a certain fitness level in order to press high and relentlessly. When the German signs a player, he often remains out of the picture for a period while he acclimates to his new teammates and the work expected. Minamino stood out for Klopp due to his energy level. Perhaps the boss expected him to adjust sooner than most. Atypically, he threw the young Samurai Blue into the FA Cup Merseyside derby with Everton on the day he officially joined the club. Yet to register a goal or assist in 322 minutes, English football challenges the Osaka native.
Minamino’s best form for Jesse Marsch at Salzburg came when playing on the right flank. Klopp gushed over the player's versatility but doesn't use him where history suggests he is best suited, asking him to play in the middle or on the left. Used to stretching defenders vertically, Minamino hasn't taken to an inverted role and cutting inside onto his favoured right foot.
The bottom line is he must settle or, like Dominic Solanke, fail to do so over a sufficient period before he can be properly judged. Despite a slow start, his inaugural half-season was always about adjusting to new surroundings. Klopp sees potential in his signing. The youngster can only learn from a team playing at Liverpool's level. From the class he flashed in the Champions League, there's every reason to be excited for his future. Don't write off Takumi Minamino just yet.