Nuri Şahin has finally completed his loan move to Liverpool. How will he fit in to their side, to English football, and to Brendan Rodgers’ football? Let’s take a look.
Why has he chosen Liverpool over Arsenal?
Well firstly, Liverpool offered a far superior loan fee to Real Madrid so they really blew Arsenal out of the running. However, it’s said that Xabi Alonso played a part in convincing his Real Madrid team mate (and ironically, his competition for a place in the side at Madrid) to move to Merseyside. Another possible convincer for Şahin was José Mourinho’s close friendship with Brendan Rodgers, the man he promoted to a position on Chelsea’s first team coaching staff.
How will he adapt to English football?
This shouldn’t be a problem. After all, he was voted Player of the Year in Germany just 15 months ago. Germany is an extremely physical and frantic league and he had no issues whatsoever in helping Dortmund to the league title.
Where will he play?
It’s expected that Şahin will play as a deep lying playmaker, known commonly in football jargon as a regista. Of course, Liverpool already have a player in a similar mould in Joe Allen, but this should be no problem. Rodgers used Allen alongside Leon Britton in the second half of last season, with Gylfi Sigurðsson pushed higher up. This was more of a 4231 shape, compared to the 433 shape he used at the start of the season where he used a specialist defensive midfielder (Kemy Agustien) behind the Allen-Brtitton combo. Lucas is the man who is likely to lose his position in the side. Already looking rusty and short of match fitness after his knee injury last season, an untimely thigh injury in this weekend’s game against Manchester City means Şahin could go straight in to the side for next Sunday’s game at Arsenal, the club he was expected to join. Şahin’s natural passing game will help to accelerate Rodgers’ style being assimilated. In 2 seasons at Dortmund, he scored 14 goals and contributed 21 assists, and he offers a wider range of passing than Allen, who favours a short passing game. Şahin is capable of both switching the play from deep, and playing killers passes to the front men.
“We are delighted to welcome Nuri to Liverpool and also to say thank you to Real Madrid for loaning us such an exciting talent. Nuri Şahin is a player with great technique and motivation and someone who will fit in smoothly to our playing model.”
Won’t Liverpool be exposed without a defensive midfielder?
At times, yes. But for the most part, the Premier League lacks quality central midfield players capable of hurting you. Manchester United’s continued success in recent seasons, despite a very weak pool of central midfielders and no specialist ball-winner is evidence of this. Having said that, in the big games away from home, Rodgers may take the safe route and go with Lucas behind Allen and Şahin. What helps Liverpool in this regard is that a possession-based style of play means less possession for the opponents, and less opportunity for them to cause you problems between the lines. The work rate of Liverpool’s front 3 (Suarez, Borini, Sterling) also helps the defence and midfield hugely.
If Şahin is so good, why didn’t Madrid keep him?
Firstly, Madrid have secured the signing of Luka Modric, a player capable of playing in a deep midfield role and currently a superior player to Şahin. They also already boast Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and Lassana Diarra. Competition for places in central midfield is fierce. He had several fitness issues last season too, which didn’t help his chances of regular game time. Mourinho has stated that Şahin has a lot of learning to do. After all, he is only 23.
“What stands out about him is that he has quick feet, he is a rapid decision-maker and he used the ball well, short and long. He’s a tempo-changer, a dead-ball taker and at Liverpool he could really thrive alongside Gerrard, learning off him.”
Will he return to Madrid or will Liverpool sign him permanently?
This depends a lot on how he performs. If he has a great season, Madrid may bring him back as a successor to Xabi Alonso, who will be almost 32. However, there is also the chance that Liverpool will make his loan deal permanent, although no purchase option has been included in the loan deal. This means that the better he performs, the more Liverpool are likely to have to pay. Real Madrid signed him for only €10m, so a sale next summer will likely be at a very tidy profit.
For now, Nuri Şahin will be happy to be playing regularly again. He is at a club where the style of football will suit him, and with Europa League games as well, there is plenty of game time to go around. He may just prove to be one of the signings of the season.
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