It’s no lie to say that Takumi Minamino has struggled to make a meaningful impact since arriving at Liverpool over 12 months ago. The Japan international has had some decent moments, but often he has found himself struggling to adapt to the blood and thunder of the Premier League, and he has provided little competition for Liverpool’s established front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, and Mohamed Salah.
Even so, it was a little bit surprising when Liverpool sanctioned a Deadline Day loan deal which took Minamino off to Southampton until the end of the season.
Jürgen Klopp’s side have struggled greatly so far this year in terms of their creative output, and to send away one of their most creative players – even if his contributions have been few – seemed a strange one.
The Japan international showed his true quality on his Southampton debut, rifling in a thunderous left-footed drive in a 3-2 defeat to Newcastle United. Minamino enjoyed a good game overall, and Saints fans will be pleased that the club has brought in someone that might be able to inject a bit of creativity and dynamism into their flagging season.
From Klopp’s point of view, no matter how well Minamino performs at Southampton until the end of the season, the reality is that he was not cutting the mustard at Liverpool, and was showing few signs that he was likely to break into any kind of form.
He did enjoy a good performance, and scored his first Liverpool goal, in the 7-0 rout of Crystal Palace in December, but since then had barely featured for the side as their form has crumbled and their status as title favorites in the outright betting on the Premier League has dissolved.
It’s clear that Klopp thinks having Minamino in the team is something of a luxury due to his lightweight and his inability to defend from the front in the same tenacious manner as their regular front three.
For similar reasons, a midfield role would not suit the 26-year-old as he would be too easily bullied off the ball. When you take his shortcomings into account, Liverpool’s decision to let Minamino go to Southampton, where he can gain more experience of the Premier League’s speed and physicality, may well prove to be a good one.
But if the Anfield side’s poor performances in front of goal do not improve over the next few weeks, then supporters will wonder why a creative option was shipped out instead of kept in reserve to try and unlock defenses when Liverpool’s star forwards are struggling.
Liverpool’s season so far
One of the themes of Liverpool’s season has been the failure of their fringe players to contribute in midfield and attack.
The likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi have provided little to nothing in the way of inspiration when called upon to try and bring more attacking verve to the team’s performances, and Minamino was certainly a player of which the same could be said.
The best possible scenario for Liverpool now would be that they manage to recover some consistent form and comfortably establish themselves in the top four positions in the Premier League table, all while Minamino comes of age at Southampton and arrives back at Anfield in the summer-ready to take the Premier League by storm for Klopp.
For all that to transpire, it’s going to take a lot of luck – something Liverpool has sorely lacked this season.