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Life comes to you fast, but football comes to you faster.
Right before the start, you are replying to a text message from a colleague about the beginning of Takumi Minamino. They ask if it is Really no good, and if he’s taken enough of his opportunities thus far to justify his spot in the lineup.
‘They fired me here’ they say three minutes later, when Minamino opens the scoring.
Said friend has been teased a lot since then, but from an outside perspective, those were valid questions. There was much talk of his January arrival from Salzburg, but his first year at Liverpool has been a stop-start: three goals in his 28 previous appearances didn’t exactly light up the world, even if he had shown his ability in flashes.
It didn’t help that even Jurgen Klopp couldn’t settle into his best position. Initially deployed as a winger, the preference this season has been to use him in central positions: as a substitute in false nine, as an advanced midfielder in a 4-2-3-1, or to the left of a flat three midfield. .
With Diogo Jota injured and Mohamed Salah rested, however, he returned to the flank against Crystal Palace, and delivered his most complete performance in the Liverpool jersey.
In truth, he never looked back after getting Nathaniel Clyne to shoot the opener. We saw a lot of the clever and clever moves we’ve grown used to, but the most notable was a marked improvement in his athleticism.
He mixed up his game; As capable of slipping in with a clever disguised run as he was of passing his man past, he displayed a newfound frankness that puts him in good stead as he seeks to provide a viable alternative to the three forwards.
It was Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and the substitute Salah who monopolized the headlines, each one scoring spirit assisting in a Premier League game for the first time, however, Minamino was the only forward to play the full 90s and his consistent presence provided a comprehensive baseline.
For a time, Minamino seemed like a lost child within the Liverpool team. Her body language on the sidelines of the July title celebrations suggested she didn’t belong yet. Yet here he seemed as comfortable as Mane on the opposite flank, taking responsibility, giving orders, and leading the charge. He’s not the new kid anymore, and it shows in both his demeanor and his acting.
He’s taken his time getting to the Japanese conundrum, but he’s slowly starting to seem like he’s earned the trust of those around him. He may not be on the level of Salah, Mane, Firmino or even Jota, but they signed him for £ 7 million and the change, he doesn’t have to be at that level to be a hit at Anfield.
It’s been a long first year for Minamino and given the high standards at Liverpool, those who have questioned his credentials can hardly be blamed. However, his current injury situation being, Klopp needs his fringe players to stand up and be counted.
Saturday was a pretty clear sign that Minamino is preparing to do just that. We expect a few more skeptics to be “fired” between now and May.