Since his arrival on loan at St. Mary’s, Takumi Minamino has made only six appearances scoring two goals including a world class goal against Chelsea as well as enduring a short spell on the sidelines through injury.
But like at Anfield, he has struggled to put make his mark within the Southampton first team. If that wasn’t enough of a clear sign the club had no intention to sign him permanently, this was all but confirmed by manager Ralph Hassenhutl in a recent interview stating the club have plans to pursue a permanent deal for loanee Theo Walcott but not for Takumi Minamino.
This can be viewed from both a positive and negative angle. Positive because it is very likely Liverpool never had any intention to let Minamino go permanently and they still have plans for him but also negative because the Saints do not feel the midfielder can offer any more to the club in the future.
So, as a return to Merseyside looks imminent, let’s assess what the Japanese international can offer going forward in terms of his strengths and where possible improvements need to be made.
Firstly, it is hard to disagree that the Osaka born midfield man possesses attributes that fit within a Jürgen Klopp team. His quick feet, sharpness, control on the ball and clear natural skill all fall under the criteria of what is needed to play the high tempo football Liverpool have mastered over the past four seasons. Although he has only shown glimpses of his ability, the signs still look positive.
Despite his technical ability, there are most certainly other sides of his game that need improving. One glaringly obvious weakness is Minamino's lack of physicality which is certainly required playing Premier League football. A man small in stature can still possess much strength, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are prime examples of this.
It is difficult to play a possession-based style if easily shaken off the ball which has been a common occurrence with the midfielder in many games since his arrival in England.
Being a man eager to impress and cement a place, the former Austrian league winner has shown to be very erratic at times almost scrambling to retain possession lost and wanting to get on the ball at any cost. There are also signs he has found the defensive side of the Reds style difficult sometimes disappearing in games.
In defense of Minamino, there is a very large gulf in not only class but physicality between the Austrian Bundesliga and England’s top tier. On top of this he has yet to find his perfect position within the team which is made all the more challenging given the emergence of Diogo Jota within the side this season.
Given Liverpool's success in recent years, there has been a debate among fans as to how long should new signings be tried and tested before moved on as a team winning and pursuing trophies does not have time to constantly chance players not fit for the Premier League.
In regards to form, the first 18 months in English football have not been too kind to Takumi Minamino and although clear improvements to his game are needed, the positive attributes to his game are worth giving him another season within the Liverpool squad.
The heavily rumoured departures of Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri may give Minamino a final lifeline in his pursuit to the Liverpool first team.