The jubilation of beating Manchester City lasted only one week for Liverpool as their exultation was marred this Monday night following a shameful defeat against bottom-placed Swansea City.
The shocking 1-0 defeat at Liberty Stadium ended Jurgen Klopp’s 18-game unbeaten streak and the burning question of Philippe Coutinho’s influence in such games was reignited once again. Liverpool suffered a massive transfer blow earlier this month as their ‘little magician’ forced his dream Barcelona move rejecting Klopp’s plea of staying put for the remainder of the campaign. But the Reds seemed not to be affected much with successive wins despite his absence and one player who has stepped up amid Coutinho conundrum is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Englishman had a slow start following a £35 mil summer move from Arsenal but proved his critics wrong lately with his stunning form.
He scored a stunning goal against Manchester City to kick-start an eventual 4-3 triumph and also inspired the Reds to register crucial wins against Burnley and Everton. His hard work and versatility made him a perfect fit in Klopp’s ‘heavy metal football’ and the ‘gegenpressing’ are helping Liverpool to command the midfield battle. Oxlade-Chamberlain was discontent with his wingback role at Arsenal and wanted to operate more centrally similar to what Klopp has offered him in recent outings. Coutinho’s exit has paved the way for him to be a regular starter and the player, too, has justified his role so far.
But should he be considered as Coutinho’s replacement? Klopp has recently cooled down the transfer talks by stating that he doesn’t need the Brazilian’s replacement and has enough options within the squad to step up for the rest of this campaign. However, ‘the Ox’ is quite a different player if compared to Coutinho and it’s his teammate Adam Lallana who is more likely to replace Coutinho as a midfield attacker. The former Gunners star is lauded for his tireless runs and movements in and around the box. He loves to stride forward driving from midfield to operate in advanced areas but is certainly not as skilful and a game-changer as the Brazilian has been in recent years.
The defeat against Swansea City pointed out the concern yet again and although the Reds have previously struggled against deep defensive sides, the presence of Coutinho helped them grind out results. His outrageous long-range strikes have often helped Liverpool to break a resilient defensive line and his absence will now make things more difficult in such adverse circumstances.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has been a shrewd piece of business who has done a decent job so far in his debut campaign. But the Reds boss Jurgen Klopp must not consider him as Coutinho’s substitute and should be looking for alternate options in the transfer market.