Harvey Elliott appears to be ahead of Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the pecking order. So what now for the senior duo?
Jurgen Klopp made a major decision with his XI against Chelsea on Saturday. It wasn’t where people thought it would be, though.
The focus was on who he’d select at left-back or up front and while they were big decisions, they paled in comparison to midfield. The Liverpool boss picked Harvey Elliott in midfield, leaving Thiago, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench.
Now, Thiago’s spot was understandable. He hasn’t started any games so far and revealed earlier this month that he’s been battling a long-term injury.
The other two, however, have both started this season. In fact, Keita started against both Norwich City and Burnley.
Despite that, Klopp picked an 18-year-old in midfield when it came to Liverpool’s biggest game of the season so far. So what does that mean for the senior duo?
Elliott usurps Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain
We wrote a similar article to this back in March about Curtis Jones. The Scouser was playing wonderfully well and appeared to be moving ahead of Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
This time, however, things are more clear-cut. Elliott was clearly chosen ahead of the duo for a huge game when Klopp will have wanted his best XI.
Being behind a younger player is bad. Elliott will only get better, after all, while the other two may not. If he’s ahead of them now, there will be a big gap in a few months.
And if Jones gets firmly ahead too, we can’t really see a way back. Not that this would be a shock.
Liverpool had both Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain up for sale this summer, per ESPN. If the right offer had come in – or comes in – they’d sell. But that doesn’t mean things can’t change.
The big problem is fitness, which robs both of any rhythm, consistency, or growth within the side. Whenever they get going, they drop out of the team and return with someone else in their place.
The two have just 183 Liverpool appearances between them. That’s two players, with one having been at the club since 2017 and the other since 2018. For comparison, Mohamed Salah has played 206 in that timespan all by himself.
It’s very difficult to command a place in the side when you’re playing that infrequently.
If the two can finally stay fit and perform, they’ll win their places back for now. They’re senior, more experienced players, after all. But Elliott proves the clock is firmly ticking.