Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has named Takumi Minamino as a player who might have just taken an important step forward after scoring against Arsenal in the Community Shield.
The Reds were ultimately beaten on penalties in the Wembley curtain raiser, but Minamino put in a strong performance and capped it with a goal to make it 1-1 in the second half after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had given the Gunners the lead.
Minamino joined Liverpool in the January transfer window and has been slow to get going at Anfield, though his arrival was also soon followed by the UK lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
This meant the Japan international will have been extremely isolated after a move to a new country, in what Klopp suggests was a very challenging time for the player.
The German tactician now feels, however, that Minamino looks to be improving and that there is plenty of encouragement to take from his performance and goal against Arsenal.
“It was not only the goal – he was in between, in close and small spaces he was really good, his first touch was exceptional, and his decision making between the lines really great,” Klopp is quoted by the Daily Mirror.
“That helps as well. So he can be a real player for us, that was always clear.
“He came in in the most difficult period of all our lives I would say. He has had to adapt to different things being alone in England in the lockdown. That is something not nice.
“But he did really well with it as he is a super professional so I am really pleased for him that he could score and that is another big step for him.
“He can have an impact. That’s why we signed him. But after one or two good pre-season performances I don’t want to put massive pressure on his shoulders. There’s absolutely no need for that.
“It was big for him and for us. The only thing he lacked since he was with us is that he didn’t score a goal. He was close in plenty of moments but the shape he’s in is obviously good and everyone could see that when he came on.
“The goal is more or less the logical step up after performing at the level he performs now, especially in the pre-season.
“So I am very pleased for him. It was very important for us to stay in the game and for him just to make his first important step.”