Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Xherdan Shaqiri have huge roles to play in the upcoming season as the Reds prepare to bid for the Premier League once again.
Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was a hero from the midfield department following Philippe Coutinho’s departure in January 2018. He was blistering until rupturing his knee against Roma during the Champions League Semifinal.
Even though Oxlade was framed for pre-season return, Jurgen Klopp confirmed that the midfielder would be ‘lucky’ to take part in the 2018/19 season. Owing down to this fact and Nabil Fekir’s problematic knee forcing the Reds to back out of the deal, Liverpool boss had to find a solution.
Jurgen Klopp wanted Naby Keita to fill that rule, but he failed. The midfielder, joined Liverpool for £52 million last season, does not have the breakneck pace and failed to look with total conviction in the final third forcing the German to reassess the situation.
During the initial stages of last season, the Reds, who were sluggish, picked up their game drastically. Teams were finding hard to stop Liverpool when they were peaking just before the turn of the New Year. It is majorly down to the full-backs exploiting the blank space to create havoc to the opponent’s defence.
Much has been talked about Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold following an impressive season. The full-back duo, who was instrumental in Liverpool’s Champions League success and 97-point tally in the Premier League, operated as wholesale supply from the defensive flanks of either side.
The full-backs managed to churn out an abnormal 29 assists last campaign by combining with the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Xherdan Shaqiri.
There is quite a variance when this duo gets included in the eleven and vice versa. When Alexander-Arnold and Robertson have started together, the Reds have scored 84 and conceded 21 in 38 games. Whereas, they have scored 22 and conceded 13 in 14 games in their absence.
This ample statistic proves the impact of the duo in the defensive and attack aspect of the game under Jurgen Klopp. However, opponents will have a blueprint to stop the ever-reliant full-backs from the concordant dispense in the upcoming year because of the familiar pattern.
Liverpool’s away trip to Stamford Bridge will be remembered for Daniel Sturridge’s fantastic strike in the injury time helping the Reds to salvage a point. But, they struggled for imagination until Xherdan Shaqiri was introduced in the second half.
The Reds were dire in their creativity when the full-backs were not given enough room to spray passes to Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. The Swiss International produced two defence-splitting passes within ten minutes, but players produced an awful final touch – Shaqiri being guilty of failing to tap the ball in from close range.
The same can be said when Manchester City visited Anfield. Pep Guardiola focussed on nullifying the full-backs creativity helping his course to secure a point out of the game. Since Klopp settled for a draw, Shaqiri sat on the bench until the final whistle.
Xherdan Xhaqiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain possess different traits. But, the former has been forced to sit on the bench because of the limited defensive work. Jurgen Klopp has forced himself out of options by not opting to play the Swiss star against top sides because of the lack of midfield balance.
Upon Coutinho’s departure, Oxlade-Chamberlain started two out of four games against the top six Premier League sides. He was on a run of games forcing himself to warm the bench against Spurs and was ruled out against Chelsea due to a knee injury. Naby Keita will also be thrown in the mix, enhancing a better output in between these two. In spite of being available throughout the season, Shaqiri’s only start against a top-six side came against Arsenal on boxing day.
To win titles, seeing out small teams is an important aspect and Xherdan Shaqiri is the killer when it bows down to that regard. The former Bayern forward started 15 games, helping Liverpool notch up 38 and concede just 6 in this period. On the other hand, when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain finds himself in the starting eleven, the Reds have scored 23 and conceded 10.
In comparison to the season Oxlade played, the Reds have grown leaps and bounds. The improvement and quality acquisitions have assisted Liverpool to perform consistently – challenging for the Premier League title. Last summer saw Liverpool inviting the likes of Fabinho and Naby Keita to strengthen the midfield department. The Brazilian has gone on to become an integral player of the squad, whilst the Guinean had a hindrance season with injury issues.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita will fight for a spot in the midfield three, whereas, Shaqiri will play second fiddle to Mohamed Salah acting as a key player to turn the game from the bench. The Swiss will be a useful option against the minnows and his fantastic track record speaks for itself.
Lastly, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have proven themselves under Jurgen Klopp, whereas Naby Keita is still finding his feet in the Premier League. But, the former Leipzig midfielder can showcase his talent despite an injury-plagued season.
This side possesses a better backbone which will hand over freedom to this duo to exploit the opponents. There is obvious frustration over the lack of signings, but the prospect of watching Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Naby Keita, and Xherdan Shaqiri should be enticing for the supporters.