Liverpool didn’t sign an outfield player in the course of the transfer window but the return of midfielder Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain will help quash such feelings.
The Englishman took another significant step in his comeback from a serious knee injury by making his first Premier League start since April 2018 when featuring at former club Southampton on Saturday.
The 25-year-old played for 89 minutes, his longest stint at any level since suffering his injury almost 16 months earlier, as Liverpool went on to win 2-1.
Klopp has boasted about his squad being adequate enough despite his failure to make new signings.
In his words, the German is expecting far more competition for places this without having to splash the cash.
“If Ox can stay fit – new player for us,”
We’re really looking forward to seeing him BACK and all that stuff. It will be an important role for us; we planned an important role for him. So, new player.” Klopp said.
Despite having missed over a year of football, Oxlade-Chamberlain could become Liverpool’s most important player going forward.
It’s true that it took some time for the 25-year-old to get into his stride after joining Liverpool from Arsenal at the start of the 2017/18 season. After all, he went ten games without a goal before he was able to find the back of the net in the Premier League.
But, as he gradually grew accustomed to Klopp’s philosophy, his influence began to grow and Liverpool ultimately reaped the benefits.
He was one of the first names on the team-sheet prior to his unfortunate injury as he acted as an important link between midfield and attack, providing some much-needed support for the deadly front three of Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mane.
For all their success last season, Liverpool have been lacking when it comes to support for the aforementioned front three.
The distinct lack of goals from the middle of the park has increased the pressure on the trio to continue scoring – and that pressure has been detrimental when things aren’t necessarily going to plan.
Bar the front trio who all got double-figure goals, the highest other scoring Liverpool player was Xherdan Shaqiri with 6 goals and his last goal came as far as December 2018 against Newcastle.
That all but shows Liverpool’s heavy dependence on the front-trio and the worrying fact that a dip in form/injury to any of them could be a major dent in any title hopes and aspirations this season.
Well, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain is here now and perhaps ready to ease that strain on the players.
That’s where the Englishman can come in. His direct, uncompromising approach splits opposition defences apart and, unlike the majority of his midfield teammates, he isn’t afraid to take the ball forward at every possible opportunity.
The only other player that offers something similar to the 25-year-old, Naby Keita, is, unfortunately, battling for fitness. He has barely played games recently and has now been ruled out for Liverpool’s weekend clash against Arsenal due to injury.
Contrary to the opinion of being a jack of all trades and master at none, Chamberlain’s versatility is actually his strength.
Liverpool have found it incredibly difficult to find adequate replacements for the front three as, despite having reasonable options off the bench, the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi and Keita all struggle to have the same level of influence when they are forced to operate out wide.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s physical attributes – combined with his improved end product – make him a perfect option to step in and make a difference.
Most importantly, age is still on Oxlade-Chamberlain’s side. It remains to be seen how much of an effect the year out has had on his overall game, as well as his fitness levels, but at 25-years-old, he should now be entering the prime of his career.
The old cliche ‘like a new signing’ is often overused in football, but Oxlade-Chamberlain’s prolonged absence, combined with his undeniable talent, will solve a number of minor issues in the Liverpool squad and they won’t have to spend a single penny.