By 90Min
July 18, 2018

Liverpool's busy summer of transfer activity took another turn in early July when the club confirmed the signing of Xherdan Shaqiri from Stoke City, having triggered the winger's £13.5m release clause.

While the low fee represents an absolute steal in a transfer market that sees Manchester City signing squad players for £60m, this is still a transfer that could go either way for the Reds.

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On his day, there is no doubt that Shaqiri is an excellent footballer. His dribbling, pace and willingness to attempt the spectacular can make him unplayable when he hits form, making his continued inclusion in the Swiss squad a no-brainer despite spending the past three years playing in a below-par Stoke side.

However, during Shaqiri's time in England his exploits have been marred by accusations that he is a 'lazy' footballer, an arrogant show-pony who looks great in a YouTube compilation but fails to consistently turn up when it counts.

Gareth Copley/GettyImages

While this would certainly explain why Shaqiri has been stuck at Stoke for so long after previously playing for the likes of Bayern Munich and Inter, players have been slapped with unfair labels and reputations before. Remember when Harry Kane was considered a one-season wonder?

With that in mind, perhaps it is time to take a closer look at the career of Xherdan Shaqiri and settle the dispute once and for all: Is he lazy, or simply underrated?

While Shaqiri did not exactly set the world alight during his time at the bet365 Stadium, his stats in terms of end product are hardly disastrous either. The winger has registered 15 goals and 15 assists across 84 Premier League appearances according to the league's official statistics, meaning that, on average, Shaqiri has had a hand in a goal every 2.8 matches during his time in the English top flight. 

According to Squawka, Shaqiri also created 75 chances last season, the seventh-highest tally in the Premier League, while maintaining a pass accuracy level of 81%. Considering he's been providing service for the likes of Saido Berahino and Mame Biram Diouf in recent times, you'd have to say that's a decent return.

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The defensive side of Shaqiri's game is where he tends to fall short and this is perhaps where the accusations of laziness come from. The winger averages just one defensive action per game, a disappointing return in a fast-paced environment such as the Premier League where wingers usually have to put in a shift defensively.

Shaqiri's lack of defensive output was demonstrated in Switzerland's opening match of this summer's World Cup against Brazil. While Philippe Coutinho scored an unstoppable strike which no keeper in the world could have saved, the goal was also noteworthy for the fact that Shaqiri was camped at the halfway line when it was scored, with no intention whatsoever of tracking back. 

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Could Coutinho have been denied the space to get his shot away if Shaqiri had come back to help? We will never know. But most fans would want to see their side's wingers fighting tooth and nail to get there and resent the players that don't.

However, it is worth noting that Shaqiri may have simply picked up some bad habits from his time at Stoke. A particularly damning set of statistics from Optastats (via the Stoke Sentinel) following Stoke's first game of 2018 against Newcastle showed that the Potters ran fewer miles than any other side in that weekend's games, while completing the third fewest sprints.

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This shows that Shaqiri has been on the receiving end of a great deal of stick that should really have been shared equally among the entirety of last season's Stoke side. Perhaps his move to Liverpool, a side renowned for their constant pressing and relentless pursuit of the ball, will revitalise Shaqiri and see him delivering at a more consistent level?

There is no doubt that Shaqiri could do more with his ability, and at 26 he still has time to do so. Places in Liverpool's first-team will be hard to come by for the Swiss winger, with the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah already occupying the wings of Jurgen Klopp's attack.

But with a bit of time and patience, there is no doubt Shaqiri will be more of an asset than an inconvenience at Anfield. 

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Even if Shaqiri does fail to deliver at a better club than Stoke, there is almost no risk involved given the size of the investment. At just £13.5m, there is every possibility that Liverpool just completed the signing of the summer without anybody even realising

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