Jurgen Klopp is absolutely spot on following the Liverpool manager’s comments about Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who have both come under the microscope this week following the Reds’ 3-2 victory against West Ham.
With captain Jordan Henderson currently sidelined with a hamstring injury following Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid, it was put to Klopp during Friday’s pre-match press conference ahead of the weekend trip to Watford whether the midfield duo were in direct competition for a starting berth this weekend.
The manager swiftly replied: “They don’t compete against each other. Hopefully, they don’t see it like this, it’s not like this, they just offer naturally different things.
“Naby can play better than he played [versus West Ham] obviously, but that was not the reason [for the substitution]: the game was like it was and Oxlade came on completely fresh and with his natural skill, having direction, speed – it’s a different player.
“But that doesn’t really say anything about it, [in a] different situation you need different players and they all are exceptional. That’s all fine, but until the change we were more fixed in positions, it was not flexible enough, it was not unpredictable enough, we were too easy to defend, we didn’t really come through.
“In other situations, we were too high on the wings, we lost the ball, counter-attacks, stuff like that, but the main problem of the game was second balls and set-pieces because, without these problems, West Ham wouldn’t have had a lot of the game.
“They couldn’t have gained confidence or whatever in this game but with these situations, they were constantly in the game and that was our main problem.
“That was what we had to solve because that will be similar: from Foster to Deeney will be a frequently used option for Watford [so] we have to be there and make sure we win much more second balls and then we can use these balls. But in this game, we were second best in the second ball game, for sure.”
What RTK has to say
Oxlade-Chamberlain (£40m) replaced his midfield teammate in the second half against David Moyes’ side with the Reds trailing 2-1. Although Keita (£58m) wasn’t by no means having a poor game, the former did inject some much-needed tempo into a match that lacked that cutting edge approach from the hosts.
Keita wasn’t the only player not pulling his weight when the German manager decided to unleash Oxlade-Chamberlain against the Hammers – whom the Englishman has an impressive record against.
Both Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain possess completely opposite traits in terms of their playing style with the Reds benefiting from the natural differences in both players game. This was apparent in the Norwich match where the Canaries utilised a more patient and conservative approach to limit Liverpool to little chances allowing Keita to thrive with the ball as he was consistently in possession.
Meanwhile, West Ham were more expansive and took the game to Liverpool which came as a surprise to the hosts with Klopp’s team usually so dominant in possession. This meant the team needed someone to get the Reds back on the front foot which is why Klopp was forced to bring on Oxlade-Chamberlain – Keita was, unfortunately, the one to suffer from the boss’ tactical tweak as someone, of course, had to make way for the former Arsenal man.