Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took his chance against West Ham United on Wednesday. It was just in time, too.
The Englishman has been at the front of the line for the third midfield spot over recent weeks. Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum have been two of the first names on the teamsheet but that third spot was up for grabs.
Fabinho, James Milner and Naby Keita all suffered injuries to keep them out. So, really, it was between Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana.
The former started against Tottenham Hotspur but failed to take his chance. He got two more – against Manchester United and Wolves – but did deserve another one after the latter performance.
And against West Ham, Oxlade-Chamberlain finally stepped up and left his mark on the game. That had been seriously lacking in recent weeks. He just didn’t affect games, frequently looking like a weak link. Or at least, the only part of the side that wasn’t shining.
And with Keita returning to fitness, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s role as the offensive option in midfield was seriously under threat.
Keita, a £52.75m signing in 2018, even played his first game of 2020 at the London Stadium. What brilliant timing for Oxlade-Chamberlain to step up, then.
He scored Liverpool’s second goal that really ended things as a contest. That did come after a slow first-half but the 26-year-old really upped his game for the second half.
He drove forward frequently, linked up well and, of course, got that goal. With competition for places heating up, this was the performance Oxlade-Chamberlain sorely needed.