Talking Tactics

Shaqiri can shake things up for Stoke

By Adrian Clarke 22 Feb 2018
Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City

Adrian Clarke profiles a playmaker whose best season to date could yet save the Potters' season

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Tactics expert Adrian Clarke looks at five players who have impressed him from back to front this season.

Xherdan Shaqiri

Stoke City’s quest to prolong their decade-long stay in the Premier League is about to get serious over the coming weeks and the continued good form of Xherdan Shaqiri will be integral to their hopes of survival, starting with the visit to Leicester City on Saturday.

The winger is by far the most creative player new head coach Paul Lambert has at his disposal.

Shaqiri may be playing for a side lying at the wrong end of the table, but he is still one of the most effective attacking midfielders in the division.

Leading scorer, leading assist-maker, and statistically top dog in all aspects of their productivity in the final third, Shaqiri is very much Stoke’s go-to guy.

In the absence of a top-class striker, this makes him invaluable.

Stoke's leading attackers
Chances created Shots on target Accurate crosses
Shaqiri 59 Shaqiri 26 Shaqiri 42
Allen 23 Choupo-Moting 18 Fletcher 15
Fletcher 21 Diouf 14 Pieters 11
Best season yet

Playing wide on the right, Shaqiri is a hard man to track. He will frequently hug the touchline, but also intermittently drift inside into pockets of space where he can cause maximum damage.

The 26-year-old is always willing to try an ambitious through-ball (he has made nine of Stoke’s 24) or fire off left-footed strikes of quality.

He is one of only eight PL stars to score three goals from outside the box this season, with only Phillippe Coutinho and Kevin De Bruyne topping his tally with four apiece.

Considering Shaqiri is playing for a team struggling to create opportunities, his end-product ranks him alongside some of the division’s top-performing forwards in 2017/18.

Striking statistics

The Switzerland international has had more shots on target (26) than Roberto Firmino for example, which puts him 12th overall. Only five players have laid on more chances.

In spite of his club's results, Shaqiri is enjoying his most outstanding season in a Stoke shirt.

Steering clear of injury, he has played more minutes during this campaign than he has done previously, and boasts more shots on target and chances created than ever before.

Shaqiri has hit the target with 26 shots so far; a total he did not reach across his first two campaigns as a Potters player.

PL's leading creators 2017/18
Chances created Shots on target outside box Accurate crosses
De Bruyne 84 De Bruyne 21 Gross 52
Ozil 72 Eriksen 14 De Bruyne 48
Fabregas 69 Kane 13 Cabaye 45
Eriksen 67 Sanchez 11 Shaqiri 42
Gross 60 Xhaka 10 Gudmundsson 40
Shaqiri 59 Shaqiri 9 Brady 39
Dead-ball mastery

Set-piece deliveries also play a huge part in Shaqiri’s make-up.

Whipping the majority of Stoke’s corners and free-kicks into the danger zone with a devilish left foot, the skilful playmaker is one of the most dangerous players in the division when standing over a dead ball.

No-one has created more goals from set-plays during 2017/18.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Mame Biram Diouf, Darren Fletcher and Peter Crouch have all scored from his corner kicks.

If Stoke do avoid relegation this season, they will be indebted to the enormous contribution of their gifted playmaker.

With a minimum of fuss Shaqiri has enjoyed a tremendously influential campaign.

Leading set-piece takers 2017/18
Set-play assists Accurate free-kick crosses Accurate corners
Shaqiri 4 Eriksen 10 Cabaye 37
Brunt 4 Shaqiri 9 Gross 33
Xhaka 4 Mooy 9 De Bruyne 31
Ibe 4 Cresswell 9 Brady 28
        Shaqiri 24
Also in this series

Part 1: Ederson taking the last line of defence to a new level
Part 2: Dunk showing shades of Terry in his defence
Part 3: How Emre Can became heart of Liverpool's midfield
Part 5: Vardy showing no signs of slowing down

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