Aside from an impressive first half against Sunderland on the season’s opening day, Liverpool’s midfield has struggled for consistency and creativity this season, despite the huge amounts of money invested by Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish in the playing squad this calendar year. Wins against Everton and Arsenal came after a couple of helpful red cards, and beating Bolton didn’t tell us much either, considering Bolton’s current form. Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll have both looked frustrated up front, rarely singing from the same hymn sheet; Jordan Henderson is possibly suffering from the weight of a hefty transfer fee, and being played out of position; and Charlie Adam hasn’t quite hit the level of performance that he showed each week for Blackpool last season. As rumours have circulated both in England and Germany in the last 24 hours that Borussia Dortmund and Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa is being lined up for a switch to Liverpool, I thought I’d enlighten you as to why there’s interest in him.
For an Asian player, making a successful move to European football often depends on finding the right club. Shunsuke Nakamura, a cultured, sometimes lazy, midfield playmaker, enjoyed a lot of success in Italy with Reggina, and later in Scotland with Celtic. That would not have been the case had he moved to the Premier League, or the Bundesliga, where the game moves at a far quicker pace. Shinji Kagawa, a different type of player to Nakamura, is a perfect fit for the Bundesliga. He is a slight player, but very agile and has a superb engine. He’s also a great fit for Dortmund. Despite being at Signal Iduna Park for only one full season, he’s adapted extremely well to the style of football that manager Jürgen Klopp has his teams play, and his build and technique make him a great compliment to other players in the Dortmund team like Mario Götze, Kevin Großkreuz and Ilkay Gündogan.
He managed 37 appearances in all competitions, scoring 15 goals and making 5 assists in the process, a superb return for a midfielder not in the starting eleven
Last season he was rather overshadowed by club captain and Bundesliga player of the year Nuri Sahin, around whom Dortmund had built their team for the previous three seasons. But he still managed 37 appearances in all competitions, scoring 15 goals and making 5 assists in the process, a superb return for a midfielder not in the starting eleven. Cynics will say that Dortmund, already six points behind by leaders Bayern Munich in the league, are missing Sahin dearly. But they would be wrong. Dortmund won the title last season at a canter, but suffered an early exit from the Europa League, meaning they were free to concentrate on domestic competitions. This season they have found the second-season syndrome tough, as most recent Bundesliga title-winners have, such as Stuttgart in 2007-08 and Wolfsburg in 2009-10. But Kagawa’s performances have been consistent again this season. He has started all but one of the club’s games in the league and the Champions League, and scored his first goal of the season away at Hannover two weeks ago. As Dortmund get over their recent blip, and begin to adjust better to having European football in the week and Bundesliga action on the weekend, more goals and assists are sure to follow for Kagawa.
He’s someone whom Liverpool, among other Premier league sides, could utilise very well. He covers well, scores goals and has adapted superbly to the fast pace of the Bundesliga. The Premier League would, undoubtedly, be a step up for him. But I would wager that he’s quick, athletic and young enough to adapt to the English game. The youngest ever player to sign a professional contract would probably also have shoulders big enough to deal with the pressure of playing in the world’s most watched league. His athleticism and stamina would provide a useful foil to Charlie Adam’s distribution skills, and he’d certainly link up well with Luis Suarez as he’s a player who likes to play the ball on the floor. He is a confident young man as well. On the eve of the derby against Schalke last season, he publicly predicted a 2-0 win for Dortmund and himself to score both goals. Dortmund went on to win 3-1, but he still ended up scoring twice. He could be a flop at Anfield, but he’d be immortalised by Liverpool fans were he to achieve something similar in the Merseyside derby.
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