Jürgen Klopp could unleash underrated Liverpool wildcard vs Crystal Palace, giving Diogo Jota a rest
With one deft touch, and a thunderous finish, Takumi Minamino opened his Premier League account for the Reds and wheeled off in jubilant celebration.
The goal heralded a 7-0 thrashing and it felt like a catalyst in the Japanese international’s career who had struggled to adapt to life at Anfield up until that point.
However, in the end, merely a few weeks later, Minamino had been sent out on loan to Southampton and notions of him knocking on the door of Liverpool’s starting XI were duly dismissed.
Almost a year on from that Crystal Palace game, Minamino’s Liverpool career remains in limbo. Many have already written him off, and lamented the club’s lack of options discarding what Minamino could offer Klopp’s team.
But the Japanese finished joint top goal-scorer for Liverpool in pre-season and he showed in flashes just why Liverpool bought him in the first place.
His lithe movement and ability to harass opponents is an important asset. Technically, Minamino is gifted and he is capable of linking up well with Liverpool’s front three.
Against Hertha Berlin, Minamino was at the end of a nice bit of combination between Mohamed Salah to riffle the ball into the back of the net.
There are areas where Minamino still needs to improve. Physically, he is below the bar and that will hinder his playing time until he builds more muscle and learns to be better in one vs one defensive scenarios.
However, his movement as a false nine can still offer Liverpool a threat going forward.
In the absence of Roberto Firmino, and taking into consideration Diogo Jota’s extensive playing time recently, Minamino could get a chance against Crystal Palace, probably from the bench after he has recovered from an injury he picked up in international duty.
Like Divock Origi proved in a surprise start against AC Milan, Liverpool’s fringe options can still deliver amicable performances and Minamino can use the Belgian as an example to follow.
Minamino will never be a player on par with Firmino or Jota, but he can do the job against inferior opposition. Teams like Crystal Palace, especially at home, are ones Klopp’s men should be beating on paper.
They are also opponents Minamino should be capable of delivering the goods against.
It must be noted that Minamino averaged 0.25 goals per 90 in the Premier League last season via Wyscout. To put that into context, Firmino averaged 0.27 goals per 90. Meanwhile, the likes of Timo Werner, Jack Grealish and Kai Havertz all averaged below 0.25 goals per 90.
Those are not bad statistics for a player who is realistically Liverpool’s fifth or sixth attacking option. He has averaged 0.41 goal contributions per 90 for Liverpool in his entire career.
Against, Crystal Palace, Minamino, who is yet to play for Liverpool in a competitive game this season, could get the chance to back his numbers up.
If he does, he will be hoping to emulate his performance at Selhurst Park on that early December 2020 afternoon.