Liverpool’s attacking edge has been blunted over the last few weeks, but could the return of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain be the shot in the arm Jurgen Klopp’s men need to get their forward’s firing again?
Liverpool have found it difficult to hit the back of the net lately, drawing a blank in three out of their last four games, granted two of those were away from home against their biggest domestic rivals in Manchester United and Everton.
A team that has been associated with scoring goals for fun and heavy metal football since Klopp took over has been taking a more measured approach to games this season, often grinding out results and winning by an odd goal.
Klopp knew he needed to address the situation at the back and the signing of Allison in the summer and Van Dijk last season has been nothing short of revelatory, with Liverpool keeping seventeen clean sheets so far this season, the same number as they had for the whole of the 17/18 season.
So has this new approach from Klopp, disrupted the flow of the front three, who seemed to be almost telepathic at stages last season? In short, yes. Dropping Firmino deeper into the midfield has seemed to have a direct effect on the amount of goals he has scored and he has seemed off the boil for a while now. That’s not to say he hasn’t played well at all, it’s more that his role as a goalscorer has been reduced as his job as a creator has increased.
Mo Salah, who for a lot of the season played in a more central position has also struggled as of late with his form hot and cold. Hot against Watford and then freezing against Everton. Although, he missed the attacking outlet of Trent Alexander-Arnold down the right wing when he was injured.
When your forward players are struggling for goals or having off days, then it’s up to the rest of the team to dig in and come up with some goals, notably the midfield. The midfield three that Klopp picks though are not usually known for their goalscoring prowess and only score a handful between them over the course of a season.
Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri were brought into to add some much-needed firepower to the squad but after decent runs in the team, they both seem to have fallen out of favour with Klopp, who has opted to play Divock Origi in attack instead of shuffling his team around to fit in either of them.
A midfield three that doesn’t score a lot of goals can still play a huge part in helping the forward players, but for Liverpool at the moment, the only player in the midfield three that seems to make forward runs between the lines is Gini Wijnaldum.
Fabinho, Henderson and even Milner to a degree are all there to do the same job – disrupt play, win the ball back and move it on. They all do this very well but you don’t need three players doing this in your midfield. One of those players has to be able to play as an attacker and make driving runs, take players on and shoot.
Adam Lallana, who Klopp has subbed on in the last couple of game’s used to be able to do this but his injuries seem to have caught up with him and he looks miles off the pace.
Liverpool have this exact type of player in their squad though, and after being injured for nearly a whole year, could make his return in their final hour of need, as he is pencilled in for a return to action with the under 23s this Friday night.
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain only scored five goals last season for the Reds, but he contributed so much more than that. He is exactly the type of player they need in their midfield to help out Salah and co and get them scoring again.
Here is a player that is not afraid to have a pop from 20 yards or try and make a surging run through the middle, powering past opposition midfielders. He is the injection of adrenalin that Liverpool need to keep the pressure up on Manchester City.
It would also be a huge boost mentally for the team and to use one of the worst clichés in football – he would be like a new signing, and one they badly need at the moment. His return may allow Klopp to push Firmino back to his usual position higher up the pitch and in turn shift Salah back out wide with Alexander-Arnold to help him.
Liverpool need to get back to scoring goals soon if they are to have any hope of winning the Premier League and Chamberlain may just be the boost they need to get them back on track.