By 90Min
September 15, 2018

Your average England fan, watching the side's 1-0 friendly win over Switzerland on Tuesday night, might have expected to see Xherdan Shaqiri on the right hand side of midfield, giving Fabian Delph a hard time.

That's where he featured at the World Cup, anyway, and he was far from ineffective in the role before Switzerland bowed out with a whimper to Sweden in the round of 16. 

Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Instead, though, we saw a pronounced departure from the 4-2-3-1 system which previously saw the former Stoke City and Bayern Munich enigma wreak havoc from the wing. We saw Switzerland pack the middle of the park, with Shaqiri acting as something resembling a trequartista, between a five man midfield and lone striker Mario Gavranovic. 

And while it may seem on the face of it like a one off departure from the previous system that brought them relative success, that would be to ignore how the Swiss lined up in their 6-0 UEFA Nations League destruction of Iceland just days earlier; the same formation, except with one holding midfielder sacrificed for an extra striker.

Over the two matches, Shaqiri was the constant. Acting as the main release valve, he'd drift into space ahead of the midfield, with the sole purpose of taking the ball from a team mate and carrying it with him as far as he can run.

While it didn't quite work against England, however, it worked to absolutely devastating effect in their first competitive match since the World Cup against Iceland, as he scored one and had a hand in two more, making the most dribbles, and having more touches of the ball than anyone except Granit Xhaka.

Despite being a consistent international performer, he is yet to start a game for Jurgen Klopp's side after signing in the summer. But with the vast amount of fixtures facing them in the next couple of months, you would expect that to change. 

So when he eventually does get some game time in a Liverpool shirt, what does his new international role tell us about how he will feature for the Reds?

When he signed, it was expected he would act as an alternative to either Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane, on one side of Roberto Firmino.

We could still see that if need be, given the lack of depth Liverpool have in the position, but from watching his international games, you would be crazy to think Jurgen Klopp isn't considering deploying him in a more central role.

James Williamson - AMA/GettyImages

He even featured there for the Reds in pre-season, coming on as a substitute in a 4-1 win over Manchester United, scoring a ridiculous overhead kick for good measure.

It's very possible, then, that he is less of an alternate to Salah than he is an alternative to the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - and that is the role in which we could see him deployed to devastating effect.

He also brings something to the Reds that no other player in the squad does - he acts as the key to a potentially crucial change of shape.

Liverpool will play Tottenham, PSG, SouthamptonChelsea twice, Napoli and Manchester City between now and the next international break. Their high tempo, no-holds-barred 4-3-3 shape works with relentless effectiveness, we know this - but to suggest they will be able to keep that going in all seven games in quick succession would be naive.

We saw them burn out towards the end of last season, dropping points all over the place as they ran to the final of the Champions League. They changed the shape in response, bringing in Dominic Solanke to allow Roberto Firmino to drop into attacking midfield, and the result was a 3-0 victory over Shaqiri's Stoke. 

Shaqiri, in his central role ahead of the midfield, offers the opportunity to play more regularly with that more reserved, if rarely featured, 4-2-3-1 with two of Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Gini Wijnaldum, Fabinho and Keita being allowed to focus solely on defensive responsibilities, without having to shift Firmino from his centre forward role. 

Not much should be taken from the fact he has barely featured for the Reds yet. The first five games of the Premier League season, in which managers have entire weeks and fully rested squads to choose from from game to game, hardly serve as a fair reflection of the squad status of most players.

Marc Atkins/GettyImages

In addition to this, Klopp has a way of signing players who barely feature initially, but go on to become crucial. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andy Robertson would attest to this fact.

With all this in mind, Shaqiri's development in the Liverpool team in the next few weeks could become one of the most interesting and exciting things about them - and that's saying something, given their 100% start to the season.

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