For Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, an opening into Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI has opened up, and it’s an opportunity he cannot afford to miss.
Naby Keita has been ruled out of Liverpool’s upcoming clash with Newcastle United, while Thiago Alcantara is pending an imminent return.
Time is limited, especially in a world-class set-up like Liverpool’s and Oxlade-Chamberlain knows this. Right now represents his best opportunity to cement his place in almost 12 months.
Time to seize what was previously his
His most recent sustained run for the Reds came at the start of the year in January. Oxlade-Chamberlain made six consecutive Premier League starts, including victories against Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Wolves.
It was a stretch of form that also saw him clock up two goals as part of a midfield triumvirate accompanied by Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum.
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The 27-year-old was in inspired form and started in nine of an 18-game winning run league run which is the joint-highest in Premier League history.
It showcased what Oxlade-Chamberlain is capable of when he isn’t hampered by injury – something we are still yet to see this season.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is still yet to start a match for Liverpool throughout 2020/21 as a result of a knee injury sustained in pre-season. He has come off the bench in the team’s previous two PL outings but is waiting for an inaugural starting berth.
Worth a switch-up
The chances are his best opening into the first-team could come against Newcastle with Keita currently injured, and the fact Curtis Jones has started five of Liverpool’s previous six league games.
The 19-year-old midfielder was guilty of giving away possession that led directly to the opportunity that Sam Allardyce and West Brom had been patiently building towards late-on during a 1-1 draw at Anfield.
Jones, who was bursting with his trademark self-belief, was guilty of overplaying on the edge of Liverpool’s box and needlessly surrendered a corner as a result.
It represented the first real occasion where the teenager’s inexperience became glaringly apparent and showcased why Klopp cannot rely too heavily on a player still so early in his development.
This could prompt the Liverpool boss to make a tactical change in midfield and bring Oxlade-Chamberlain in for Jones.
Compared to Liverpool’s other midfielders, Oxlade-Chamberlain is by a distance, the most direct and efficient at getting his team out of the traps and on the front foot.
Last season, he had more dribbles per 90 (4.07) than all of Liverpool’s midfielders combined (Keita second on 2.66). This implies that Oxlade-Chamberlain offers something unique in comparison to Klopp’s other options.
A sense of unpredictability would be welcomed following the dour second-half performance against West Brom.
Liverpool require someone who will take risks and overwhelm a Newcastle defence that has conceded eight goals in their last three league matches.
Given he is yet to start for the Reds since July, he could be Klopp’s perfect secret weapon to inspire a much-needed response on Wednesday night.