This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain turned in a mixed display as Liverpool beat Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 on Saturday.
The Reds once again avoided defeat in 2019/20 with a fine win over the Seagulls.
Two goals from Virgil van Dijk proved decisive at Anfield, moving them 11 points clear of Manchester City, who drew 2-2 with Newcastle United on the same day.
There were some nerves towards the end, though, with goalkeeper Alisson Becker sent off after handling the ball outside the area. Adrian was introduced in place of Oxlade-Chamberlain to replace him and instantly conceded, with Lewis Dunk netting from the free-kick that resulted from Alisson’s infringement.
Why was Oxlade-Chamberlain the man sacrificed?
Deployed in a midfield three alongside Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum, the former Arsenal star struggled to have a genuine impact in the final third throughout the encounter.
He had 51 touches of the ball, per WhoScored, and registered a pass completion rate of 81%, but he had just one shot on target and completed just one dribble.
Defensively, he made two tackles and five interceptions but the 26-year-old was dribbled past on three occasions and was dispossessed twice.
This was a stop-start display from a midfielder so known for his dynamism.
Oxlade-Chamberlain needs to be given a freer role than the one he was asked to perform in on Saturday.
As it was, he was stuck between a rock and a hard place, as he did not manage to push forward enough but was also rather ineffective at actually winning the ball back when Brighton had it.
Of course, Liverpool’s system does not allow for an out-and-out number 10, with Roberto Firmino often dropping deep to provide the link between the attack and the midfield.
As it is, then, it feels like ‘the Ox’ is a square peg in a round hole.
He has shown that he is not particularly adept at the defensive side of the game and he is unable to do the attacking side when played in such a deep role.
While Jurgen Klopp’s men won and sit top of the league, this is a puzzle he will have to solve in the coming weeks and months.
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