Jordan Henderson will miss the next three weeks with an injury and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the right man to step up.
Jurgen Klopp confirmed Henderson’s injury this week ahead of the clash with West Ham United. There’s little doubt that the player will be a big miss. Henderson has been playing some of the best football of his career, after all.
But with the captain missing, someone needs to step up and fill the void. It’s a somewhat simpler task now that Henderson isn’t playing holding midfield, though.
If this had happened back in December, things would be very difficult indeed, given the lack of alternatives. But Fabinho has already come back in to take that holding spot, thankfully.
Henderson is instead playing on the right of the midfield three and that’s what Oxlade-Chamberlain makes the most sense. The £35m man can play that role as close to Henderson as possible – which is vital if Klopp wants to keep the same style going.
Assuming he does, then that spot is part right-midfielder, part centre-midfielder. Both are positions Oxlade-Chamberlain can play and both need doing right.
Drifting out onto the flank is key as it allows Mohamed Salah more room to move inside. It also means Liverpool can double up on crossing options, with Trent Alexander-Arnold out on that side, too. It’s something Henderson really adds to the team when he’s there, immediately making the team function with a bit more freedom as no one is rooted on that side.
But then there are the more traditional centre-midfield tasks. Pressing, getting into the box, but also having the workrate to get back into position. Henderson does all three wonderfully but we know that Oxlade-Chamberlain – at his best – is capable of the same. He actually showed that against Monday’s opponents, West Ham, by scoring in the away game a few weeks ago.
So Oxlade-Chamberlain, even if he has his own problems to solve, does represent the easiest replacement for Henderson over the next three weeks. He can slot in without changing the style at all – and that’s a great luxury.