🔴 EOTK Insider Opinion: Takumi Minamino could be one of Liverpool's most important players this season ⭐️
If the Japanese international can bring one particular attribute displayed in pre-season into the season proper... he could be a useful option from the bench.
Hold back on the pitchforks and torches for a moment, Reds, and hear us out on this one.
We can appreciate that singling out Takumi Minamino at this time, especially after he’s just been withdrawn from the Japanese international squad due to an injury concern, comes across as somewhat out of left field.
Believe it or not, however, there is some logic behind the seeming madness!
Though always a dangerous source of backing, there were certainly signs from pre-season to suggest that Jurgen Klopp will be able to call upon a new and improved version of the 26-year-old many have apparently long since lost faith in.
Such a viewpoint is justifiable given the forward’s obvious struggles adapting to the demands of the Premier League.
Minamino registered only a single goal for Liverpool across nine (admittedly minutes starved) top-flight appearances before being shipped out on loan to Southampton.
There were some positive signs that emerged early during a short stint with Ralph Hasenhüttl’s South Coast outfit, with the attacker finding the net on two separate occasions in his opening three league appearances. After that point, however, normal service resumed, with the No.18 suffering from a barren run in front of goal.
As such, you’d struggle to get most fans onside when putting the former RB Salzburg star’s name forward as one of Liverpool’s likely top performers this season.
The obvious candidates stick out like a sore thumb - Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Thiago Alcantara, Alisson Becker, and so on and so forth. How could Minamino possibly compete?
We should add that the purpose of this article isn’t to suggest that Minamino is likely to come close to the kind of numbers posted by the likes of Salah or Mane, or even register a similar level of minutes but rather propose that his level of contribution could be more significant than most expect.
In that regard, we advise that you cast your mind back to the prior campaign where Liverpool were seriously let down by some of their backup options when they absolutely needed them most.
There were notable exceptions, of course, not least of all the deputising efforts of Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams in the backline.
However, it’s likewise difficult to strike Divock Origi’s role in Liverpool’s 1-0 home defeat to Burnley from memory.
Given his first start of the season against Sean Dyche’s men, the stage was once again set perfectly for the Belgian to be the hero.
Capitalising on an error from Ben Mee, the former Lille star had a free run towards goal but found the crossbar instead of the back of the net when one-on-one with Nick Pope.
The resulting defeat, courtesy of a late Ashley Barnes penalty, not only ended Liverpool’s remarkable 68-game unbeaten home run but precipitated the worst run of home form the Reds had experienced since the 1953-54 campaign. Dire doesn’t begin to cut it.
We should add that we’re not blaming Origi for what followed; our problems were so broad that we were bound to drop some points at L4 sooner or later. Though, we can’t help but wonder what might have been had our home streak been extended.
In that sense, should we run into any difficulties this term, we’ll need our backup options to be ready to answer the call to the best of their abilities.
Though offering more of an impact in front of goal than Origi, Minamino looked far too easy to bully off the ball at times, which certainly goes some way to explaining why Klopp was prepared to sanction his loan move to Southampton.
It’s the Japanese international’s level of physicality that we specifically want to touch on here, given it was an area he showed some significant improvement on during pre-season.
On that note, one moment that sticks out in the memory is a run on goal from the 26-year-old during the 3-1 friendly clash with Osasuna.
After having controlled a lofted pass beautifully, Minamino shrugged off pressure from a covering defender to seize a goalscoring opportunity.
A minor moment, particularly when compared to his general goalscoring exploits in pre-season but one that shone above all else.
The Minamino of last season would have potentially been batted down to the turf and deprived of possession. This version of the former Austrian Bundesliga star looked an entirely different proposition.
Keeping our fingers crossed that the player’s injury is a minor as has been reported, we at EOTK Insider are curious to see whether the forward can prove to be a reliable option from the bench when called upon this season.
Should he become Klopp’s go-to backup, grabbing a few goals here and there, some may form a very different opinion of Minamino by the time the curtain falls on the 2021/22 league campaign.
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