It was not the first year in Merseyside that Takumi Minamino would have expected. In a season in which Liverpool suffered injuries, the Japanese international appeared in just six games throughout the Premier League and Champions League, for a total of just 145 minutes.
Of the three starts he made this season, two came in the Carabao Cup. He’s not exactly a glamorous supporter of the midfielder-turned-striker, who would hopefully move on to a normal starting point after a six-month acclimatization period.
And now, after returning from an international break in which he impressed again for the Japanese national team, including the penalty with a 1-0 victory over Panama, he is facing a quiet critical period early in his career at Liverpool.
Jürgen Klopp has an injury. Much has been done about the long absences of Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk, but the Liverpool team has been devastated by issues throughout.
Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago Alcântara, Naby Keïta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah are ready to miss this weekend’s game against Leicester or have dealt with their respective problems and will not be fully fit with the resumption of the Premier League.
Leave Klopp for solutions.
Recently, he changed to a 4-2-3-1 formation to squeeze Diogo Jota to the side. In this way, it requires only two mediums. However, now, not only can he not have two means at his disposal to choose from. Many may need to play in the back line to cover other injuries.
The appearance of Jota after his summer move only puts the races of Minamino in a bigger context. The fact that Winger Winger has exploded into life on Merseyside as if it had been developed in the Klopp system for years should be a concern for those he has already promoted.
Even more important is the game of Curtis Jones and Xherdan Shaqiri. He needed a goal against West Ham and then Manchester City, it was not Minamino that Klopp turned to, but Shakiri, the Swiss international, provided crucial help for Yota’s winner against the Hammers.
Their combination told who was absent. Minamino resigned even more from his position on the bench – or was even absent from the squad on the day of the game against City before the international break – from his inconsistent playing time from last season.
However, while Minamino has consistently struggled to influence the fights as expected – and of course his physical ability is strong – he has also not been given a fair whip.
Klopp’s 4-3-3 formation, which has largely dominated the process since arriving at Anfield, and is the dominant system of Liverpool’s most recent success, does not fit Minamino’s most discreet, subtle, creative instincts.
Like Roberto Firmino before him, Klopp tried to change his game, transforming him from a creative number 10 to a number nine back-to-goal who falls from the center, receives the ball with his back to the goal and then looks to feed players with great success behind rival defenses.
Firmino is the master of this role. It has the natural framework to repel the defenders. He is a wonderful technician when he receives the ball, producing luxurious strokes and touches to go back in space or release those around him. Although he is not a center forward for penalties or an aerial giant, he is the ideal Liverpool striker.
Minamino, however, is a different type of player. He is slower, slightly faster and more intense, more dangerous when he can accept the ball deeper and face the goal, instead of having to spin without of course dominating the center.
Your content in Liverpool, but it was done differently, and directly to your inbox.
You know what it’s all about – offering you the best in-depth, alternative and local content – but also bringing Liverpool, the football club and the city to wherever you are in the world.
If you are too busy scrolling or searching, just subscribe to our newsletter to receive your daily selection of written content, from transfers to regular, directly to your inbox. You will also receive a personally written weekly edition from the author, as well as the opportunity to stay up to date with any of the latest and exclusive offers we have.
Every corner of the champions is covered.
For every Liverpool fan on the planet.
How do you register?
It’s easy and only takes seconds.
Just enter your email address in the box at the top of this article and click “Register”.
And that is, you are ready.
However, there is a possibility that the most desirable role of Minamino will be available. Klopp has become increasingly in the 4-2-3-1 squad this season, and with Firmino struggling for form, he may seem to be using a more creative medium behind a central slot machine.
Jota has clarified his quality and could steal one of the top three places, but with Salah having the experience to play in the middle, he could lead Minamino to shine in a facilitating role behind a trio that consists of the Egyptian international, Jota and the ever present Sadio Mané.
Surely, if Klopp intends to put Minamino in the best position to succeed at Liverpool, that would be it. And with the current injuries he is facing, he may not have a better chance of doing so.
Liverpool are forced to experiment and this could lead to some interesting and unexpected results. Could one of them be a Minamino resurrection? If he wants to find his place in the Liverpool team, he has to start now. Minamino has run out of chances, and Klopp may just not have the patience.