Premier League

Who’s the man Premier League clubs should sign? Shaq!

 • by David Cartlidge
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The barrel-chested Swiss star might have taken his time but Xherdan Shaqiri is finally making a big impact in the Premier League.

His influence at Stoke City this term has been considerable – he’s scored 22 per cent of of their league goals – and if the club are to retain their top flight status it would be largely due to his efforts.

That such an impressive season has come about during the Potters’ dismal campaign only further highlights that the accusations of laziness and disinterest that are often thrown at Shaqiri are wide of the mark.

Regardless of Stoke’s league status next year it’s near impossible to think the 26-year-old will be sticking around.

Premier League clubs, including Everton, West Ham United and Crystal Palace, are queuing up to sign winger, who it seems has finally adapted to his surroundings.

With better players around him – something that Shaqiri has hinted at himself – then perhaps he could’ve achieved even more at Bet365 Stadium. 

Marko Arnautovič experienced similar during his time at the club. Often he was regarded as being inconsistent but the frustrations of a player are sometimes lost on fans. A lack of ambition and poor quality team-mates can demotivate even the most mentally strong. 

Paul Lambert isn’t blind to the dependancy Stoke have had on Shaqiri this season, saying that despite his ability he can’t be expected to win games for the Potters ever weekend. 

“I think it is a difficult thing for that to happen unless you are Lionel Messi or that type of player,” he said. “Shaqiri has done well for us but he needs a little bit of help as well.”

The wideman cut a disgruntled figure towards the end of the Mark Hughes era at the club, but since Lambert’s arrival has reinvented himself. Shaiqiri’s a bundle of energy and unpredictability. Few players in the Premier League are pure game changers or winners, but Shaiqiri is one.

Lambert didn’t take long to see the quality of the Switzerland international and after a 1-1 draw with Leicester City, in which he scored his third goal in as many games, the manager offered the highest possible praise.

“I think as I’ve said before he’s a real world class footballer.”

That run of three goals saw Shaqiri net once with his right foot, one with his left foot and once with his head. He has often been marooned out wide on the right, where he can’t influence play or add quality into key central areas.

Every time he does drift inside, something special happens. Had Shaqiri been used correctly throughout the campaign then Stoke’s season might’ve panned out different.

So the future. While he’s not a cure-all signing by any means, for the right club Shaqiri could be a very good one.

Everton, West Ham and Crystal Palace are in the race for Stoke’s star man, a player that has seven goals and six assists this season. All three clubs require his ingenuity, having encountered different problems in the search for creative ability in the final third.

There is plenty of end product there from the former Bayern Munich man these days, and it’s not just there his game has taken on a whole new level.

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His 2.2 key passes per 90 is the highest ratio at Stoke, while he’s completing 1.1 successful take ons per 90. His attitude and positivity in attacking areas is a breath of fresh air and is something any team would love to have.

The former Basel man is also excelling in both xG90 (expected goals per 90) and xA90 (expected goals assisted per 90) categories. Shaqiri’s xA90 this season is 0.14, but his actual assists per 90 is 0.21. And while his xG90 is 0.12, his goals per 90 stands at 0.24.

There are certainly flashes of the player that made Bayern opt to sign him from Basel and it’s these figures that might well convince a club that the player isn’t such a gamble after all. Given the right conditions to perform he could do even more.

Shaqiri has the aura of a player who can operate at a higher level, and if not for the lack of consistency in his game, he’d be there already. At 26 there is still time, however.

The race is on for the man who leads where others follow. It has been a long time coming but Shaqiri is at last up to speed in England. It’s time a club take advantage.

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