Last Saturday’s 2-1 win at St Mary’s was a huge result for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side, mainly because they had overcome a hectic early-season period involving plenty of football and too much travelling.
The Reds had endured 120 minutes of Super Cup action with Chelsea in Istanbul only to be playing again just 48 hours after they touched back down on English soil.
Yet, besides the six points from two Premier League games and the lifting of the UEFA Super Cup trophy, there was another huge positive for the club. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returned.
He started against Chelsea in the Super Cup encounter but was played out of position, wide on the left. It felt like it was more just a case of Klopp getting Oxlade-Chamberlain some much-needed game-time under his belt.
The former Arsenal midfielder hadn’t started a competitive game for The Reds since picking up a shocking ACL injury against AS Roma in the Champions League semi-final first leg at Anfield, in April 2018.
In that first season, Oxlade-Chamberlain had played himself into Jurgen Klopp’s first eleven. He was the go-to guy when Liverpool needed to break the lines between midfield and attack with many teams finding his powerful forward runs very difficult to track and/or stop.
At Southampton, even though it was his first league start in 18 months, Oxlade-Chamberlain made an impact. Klopp started him as part of the midfield triumvirate, where he belongs.
Oxlade-Chamberlain displayed game intelligence against Southampton that, at times, has been sorely missed. He was smart with his pressing game, he didn’t shirk his defensive duties and his passing (89% accurate) was vital in linking with the front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané.
It may be some time before Oxlade-Chamberlain is considered a starter again – he, along with James Milner, played against Southampton so Klopp could rotate both Jordan Henderson and Fabinho. However, with a long, gruelling season ahead for The Reds, he will get as many chances as anyone in Liverpool’s midfield.