Thiago Alcantara was only on the pitch for 17 minutes against Newcastle but still made a lasting impression. The Spaniard has made life very difficult for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Liverpool failed to beat Newcastle, of course. They created chances but just couldn’t convert them – a very underwhelming way to round off 2020.
It seemed that Liverpool’s most recent game was the perfect opening into Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI for Oxlade-Chamberlain, it wasn’t. James Milner was selected instead.
Naby Keita was injured, Thiago and Gini Wijnaldum left on the bench and still, Oxlade-Chamberlain didn’t get his chance.
In the end, he was an unused substitute. As such, Wijnaldum and Thiago were both chosen in his place to make an impact from the bench.
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Oxlade-Chamberlain overlooked again
It questions whether and when Oxlade-Chamberlain will be next be given an opportunity.
The 27-year-old is still yet to start for Liverpool all season. Indeed, he could still have an impact with Klopp expected to rotate in the coming weeks.
A start for the £35 million [BBC] star felt imminent. He came off the bench during Liverpool’s previous two matches, after all. He offers the team something unique and his qualities could have been useful against Newcastle.
Compared to Liverpool’s other midfielders, Oxlade-Chamberlain is by a distance, the most direct in the team.
Last season, he had more dribbles per 90 (4.07) than all of Liverpool’s midfielders combined. When on the ball, he is unpredictable and is always looking to get on the front foot.
This was lacking at St James’ Park. Despite dominating possession, Liverpool were wasteful with their chances. Oxlade-Chamberlain could have made a difference, then.
Newcastle were set-up to frustrate and stop Liverpool functioning at full capacity. In truth, it was effective. After all, they became the first team to stop the Reds scoring in the Premier League this season.
With that said, Oxlade-Chamberlain could surely have made a difference. The fact he was overlooked clearly suggests the manager has better options.
The timing of Thiago’s return is another reason to suggest Oxlade-Chamberlain will struggle for gametime.
It took Thiago a matter of minutes to leave his mark against Newcastle. You can immediately see the quality, though, and how much of an effect he will have once he’s at his best.
He’s unlike any midfielder Liverpool have and, really, unlike any player on the planet.
Thiago is undisputedly world-class and that makes him a must in Klopp’s starting XI. Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum are indispensable too.
Add in James Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain is already behind four players in the midfield pecking order.
There is still hope for the Englishman, however. The compacted campaign, coupled with an injury crisis, means the Reds are crying out for a versatile, energetic player like Oxlade-Chamberlain.
On the flip side, with Thiago finally back in the mix, it does question whether Oxlade-Chamberlain’s time is potentially running out at Liverpool.