Jürgen Klopp has surprisingly lit the fire under Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabinho by singling the two of them out for criticism as players who are still “not at the top of their game”.
Talking to Uefa, via the official club website, Klopp said, “Players such as Fabinho and [Xherdan] Shaqiri are very important parts of the team, too.
“But then again, they are not at the top of their game, but they’ve made important steps in their development. The journey is not over, not for anyone.”
This is surely pretty harsh on Fabinho. In the same week he has been left out of the Brazil squad for the upcoming Copa America, the midfield destroyer is now being challenged by Klopp.
Fabinho has been indispensable to us in the second half of this season and has put in some utterly unrelenting performances bossing the middle of the park.
He gets his head up, makes adventurous passes, wins the ball, and has displayed an uncanny ability to make accurate, lunging tackles.
Admittedly, it took a while for Klopp to actually introduce him properly – he didn’t make his league debut until a 21-minute cameo against Huddersfield in late October. Maybe Klopp is considering the Brazilian in the aggregate, but there’s little more Fabinho can do to improve his overall game.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 19, 2019
With Shaqiri, Klopp’s comments are perhaps a little bit more understandable. From late October to the end of the year, the Swiss enjoyed a fair few minutes getting an assist and five goals (including those two against Manchester United).
But by the new year, Shaq stopped featuring and never played 90 minutes again until starting the second leg of the Barcelona fightback. His assist in the Newcastle game might have given him some favour with Klopp and he obviously registered another to let Divock Origi grab the winner.
Maybe Klopp’s comments are simply a retrospective overlook of the season that’s gone, or he just wants to let the new arrivals know what being a Liverpool player is about.
But then again, Klopp also said: “The development of the players who were there helped us a lot; of course, the new signings helped us a lot as well. Alisson [Becker] and Virgil [van Dijk], for example, have had the biggest impact because they have played in almost all the games.”
Klopp’s comments need to be understood within the context of the lead up to a Champions League final – maybe he’s just trying to fire up Fabinho and Shaqiri to eliminate the chance of complacency.