Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has surely won the battle for a place against Atletico Madrid with his display against Bournemouth.
We wrote after the first leg against Atletico that Jurgen Klopp had four games to make a difficult choice. That choice was over who would make the midfield at Anfield when the teams meet next week.
Liverpool need goals in the game, after all, and an aggressive midfield makes that easier. Gini Wijnaldum and either Jordan Henderson or Fabinho were certain, but who else should Klopp pick – Oxlade-Chamberlain or Naby Keita?
The game at home to Bournemouth on Saturday was the last chance for either to win the spot in midfield.
Keita didn’t play, of course. He had missed the game against Watford, too, and didn’t recover in time to play at Anfield.
While that does make him fresher than most for the game on Wednesday, it also means he missed out on the chance to earn his place. He’s shown little over the last few games, unfortunately, much in the same way he’s only threatened to thrive since his £53m move.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, though, looked good against Bournemouth. His end product rarely came off but his drive and pressing were fantastic. He has the ability to push Liverpool forward and – importantly – push the opposition back. He showed a willingness to run with the ball, too, as only Mohamed Salah completed more dribbles (4 to 3, per Whoscored).
He’s happy to run beyond the forward line, just as he’s happy to play in midfield. Oxlade-Chamberlain will cover for his teammates defensively, just as he’ll take up offensive positions when other drift elsewhere.
In short, Liverpool just look better with him on the pitch. And for that reason, he’s the one who should get that midfield spot on Wednesday.