Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain makes stand out first half performance on Liverpool return…he is just the sort of attacking option Jurgen Klopp needs
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has faced a testing spell at Liverpool with injuries
- The 26-year-old made his first league appearance since April 2018 today
- Goals from Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane meant Ox’s return was a happy one
- The England international played well as Liverpool took all three points
After confirmation that Super Cup shootout hero Adrian was fit after his bizarre fan-inflicted ankle injury, it was the name of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that jumped out on the Liverpool team-sheet.
It has been a long road back to Liverpool’s Premier League starting team for Oxlade-Chamberlain after the horror knee injury he suffered in a Champions League semi-final against Roma the season before last.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain showed boss Jurgen Klopp his credentials in a fine first half display
The ex-Southampton star celebrates with team mates Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah
Klopp admitted he made a mistake deploying Oxlade-Chamberlain in a wide role in the Super Cup win over Chelsea and he was withdrawn at half-time in Istanbul.
But it was fitting that he looked much more comfortable in the familiar surroundings of St Mary’s, the place he used to call home.
Oxlade-Chamberlain burst onto the scene as an exciting, teenage wide player/attacking midfielder at Southampton.
He still possesses those qualities that helped him stand out at and emerge from Southampton’s famed academy.
But there is now much more to his game now, understandably, a decade on.
Klopp’s decision not to make any major signings this summer to improve Liverpool’s chances of finally securing that elusive Premier League crown may have raised eyebrows.
It was one taken with the returns of players like Oxlade-Chamberlain. He fits nicely into that ‘like a new signing’ category.
Oxlade-Chamberlain felt like a new signing on Saturday afternoon, fitting straight in
He was Liverpool’s fourth attacker and the first to get forward and support the front three
Oxlade-Chamberlain also displayed the discipline to get back and support Liverpool’s defence
If you are looking for any chinks in Klopp’s squad you might point to the need for a greater attacking threat from midfield to supplement the runners and dictators they already have.
Oxlade-Chamberlain showed how he will help on that front against Southampton. He was Liverpool’s standout performer in the first half.
With one driving run from midfield, dangerous cross from the right and scuffed cross shot wide Oxlade-Chamberlain made his presence felt inside the first 12 minutes.
He was Liverpool’s fourth attacker and the first to get forward and support their famous front three.
At times he was even ahead of them such was his determination to impact the game in the final third. Just the sort of added attacking option Klopp needs.
His range of abilities and flexibility increased Liverpool’s fluidity and unpredictability
The Ox also started in Liverpool’s UEFA Super Cup victory against Chelsea in midweek
Oxlade-Chamberlain also displayed the discipline and energy to get back and support Liverpool’s defence, not least when he was the one who raced back to fill in for an out-of-position Trent Alexander-Arnold and snuff out the danger posed down the left by Nathan Redmond.
His range of abilities and flexibility increased Liverpool’s fluidity and unpredictability. At one stage he popped up on the left hand side, having started on the right of the Reds’ midfield three, and then went into the front three, allowing Roberto Firmino to drop into midfield.
Then it was back out onto the right hand side to send in the cross that Southampton failed to truly clear and which eventually led to Sadio Mane’s opener.
The forward runs, neat and inventive passing but also diligent tracking back continued from Oxlade-Chamberlain after the break.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was sidelined after suffering an ACL injury against Man City in 2018
And one cheeky flick and another outside of the ball pass to keep increasingly-dominant Liverpool on the attack underlined his growing confidence.
When Adrian’s howler set up a nervy finale for Liverpool Klopp called for the composure of Jordan Henderson to replace Oxlade-Chamberlain for the final few minutes.
It was so long since he last played 90 minutes it would have been no surprise if tiredness was kicking in.
But his early withdrawal also allowed Oxlade-Chamberlain to soak up the deserved acclaim from both sets of fans inside St Mary’s after his encouraging return to Liverpool’s Premier League starting XI.
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