Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat against Atletico Madrid last week saw an uninspiring injection of pace from the substitute’s bench as Jurgen Klopp’s replacements failed to make an impact in the Spanish capital.
However, against West Ham United, there was one player who performed like a man possessed to completely transform the team’s fortunes during Liverpool’s hard-fought 3-2 victory against West Ham United.
While Naby Keita struggled, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain showcased why he should be given the final set of keys to Liverpool’s midfield triumvirate in the absence of club-captain Jordan Henderson. The England international was undroppable following his second-half cameo.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has changed the game since his introduction.
— DaveOCKOP (@DaveOCKOP) February 24, 2020
Oxlade-Chamberlain, 26, produced some much-needed power and urgency into a Liverpool performance that had become rather lacklustre with the Hammers even taking an unexpected second-half lead.
With Henderson confirmed out of action for up to three weeks, this was the perfect showing from the former Arsenal man to showcase why he shouldn’t have been dropped from Liverpool’s starting XI.
Oxlade-Chamberlain – who signed from Arsenal for £35m [BBC Sport] in 2017 – had previously started the Reds’ last six league matches for the first time in his Liverpool career and was beginning to replicate the devestating form the Englishman produced before sustaining ligament damage in April 2018 that ruled him out for the best part of a year.
The former Southampton star immediately set the tone after delivering a thunderbolt that just eluded the outside of Lukas Fabianski’s right-post. He even turned provider for what would have been a stunning fourth goal after unselfishly spotting the run of Trent Alexander-Arnold who teed up Sadio Mane who was deemed offside.
It is worth noting, however, that Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain are completely parallel opposites of each other. Liverpool Guinean talisman intricately darts around midfielders constantly bouncing passes looking for holes in the opposition’s backline, but sadly for Keita, this proved rather ineffective against a stubborn David Moyes defensive quartet.
Rather than tiki-taka, Liverpool needed a traction engine that was going to take the game to his opponent. That was exactly what Oxlade-Chamberlain did after Klopp unleashed him in the 58th minute.
It provided the necessary spark for a comeback which saw Klopp’s side equal the English top-flight record of 18 successive wins, set by Manchester City from August to December 2017.