Tuesday night was encouraging for Kopites. The Reds breezed past Genk in a 2-1 Anfield victory. Two of the most heartening aspects of the win were the good performances from Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The chronically crocked midfield duo can be key to the Liverpool title challenge, just not together.
Naby Keita has long been a puzzle for Reds fans. The Guinean midfielder was a club record signing when Liverpool agreed a £48m fee with RB Leipzig for his services in 2017. Unfortunately, the former Bundesliga man has struggled for fitness since arriving on Merseyside.
When Keita has played, he has often impressed, sometimes disappointed. It is no secret that Jürgen Klopp holds players back until they are completely up to speed with his philosophy – with Keita unable to stay fit and therefore unable to get a run of games, he has found it hard to adapt.
Against Genk, Naby put in a strong performance. The ex-Leipzig player finished the game with a 93% pass completion. He was unlucky not to score in the first half, the pass from The Ox could have come a few moments earlier.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also impressed against Genk, the England midfielder scored his fourth goal in four games for the Reds. He played in a much more advanced role than Keita, operating in a free role in the final third.
What became clear throughout the game was that both The Ox and Keita want to get forward, both can drive with the ball. However, when they play together, one has to play on a leash. The Reds are desperate for a creative spark in the midfield and both of these players look set to provide it. If we want to win the title this season, we need flair in our approach play.
If we want to get the best out of Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain we need to rotate them. They are both relentless attacking midfielders, it is a waste to keep one held back.