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03rd Mar 2018

Oxlade-Chamberlain has stepped up in a big way in the absence of Coutinho

He has stepped up in Coutinho's absence

Reuben Pinder

Salah and Mané may have got the goals today, but Oxlade-Chamberlain has quietly hit a brilliant run of form

When Philippe Coutinho left Liverpool for Barcelona this January, many fans will have had concerns about how they would miss his creativity, not to mention his wonder goals from outside the box.

On many occasions, Coutinho was the difference maker, whether he played wide left or as one of three in midfield, he was brilliant for Liverpool, hence why Barcelona forked out so much money for him.

Any team would miss Coutinho, but Liverpool have adjusted to life without him seamlessly. You hardly notice he’s gone when you watch them, as they still have that intensity and pace in attack, and Mohamed Salah has of course taken on the burden of clinching matches with important goals.

As well as Salah, the player to have really stepped up in Coutinho’s absence is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Finally able to play in his preferred role of all-action central midfielder, the former Arsenal man has hit a run of form at just the right time for Liverpool.

When you consider the scrutiny his move to Liverpool attracted from fans of various clubs and pundits alike, all of whom were bemused that a player who had thus far failed to fulfil his potential could merit a £35m fee, it is all the more impressive.

Liverpool’s other creative central midfielders, Gini Wijanldum and Adam Lallana have had seasons of highs and lows, especially Lallana, who has struggled with injury and had that moment of madness in an U23s game.

All the while, Oxlade-Chamberlain has performed consistently in midfield. His strength, acceleration and dribbling ability make him the ideal player for Jürgen Klopp to mould in his image. In fact, while he is less talented than Coutinho, he is probably more suited to Klopp’s system than the Brazilian.

The numbers back it up, too: ‘Ox’ is currently averaging 161 minutes per goal contribution (goal or assist), the best rate of his career. Not only is he getting about the pitch, he’s producing that all important end product.

If you view Oxlade-Chamberlain as Coutinho’s direct replacement, Liverpool have made a £105m profit and got a player who is more suited to the team’s style, as well as being a year younger.

This run of form will go a long way in the player’s bid to earn an England recall before the World Cup. For maybe the first time in many years, very few players have nailed down their place in the starting line up for this summer’s World Cup. Maybe only Kyle Walker, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane can be considered guaranteed starters, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Oxlade-Chamberlain force his name onto that list.


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