By Scott Mason – @ScottMason00
It is no secret Liverpool were in the market for a No.10 after the sale of Phillipe Coutinho.
Many fans believe that Liverpool need an attacking playmaker who can bring the magic that the Brazilian magician once delivered at Anfield. Ever since the January 2018 transfer window, the Reds have been linked with numerous players who could fill the void.
The likes of Hakim Ziyech, Kerem Demirbay, Donny van de Beek and, more recently, Bruno Fernandes have all been tipped to make the switch to Anfield. Liverpool almost secured a deal for highly-rated Lyon midfielder Nabil Fekir last summer – a medical was completed, but the plug was pulled in the last minute.
So, we know that Jurgen Klopp was looking for a player who could play the No.10 role but what if he already has a player in his ranks who could be the answer? And what if his name was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain?
The Ox is no stranger to playing as an attacking midfielder – he has played in this role 16 times throughout his career with four of them coming in a Liverpool shirt.
The two most notable games were against Manchester City at Anfield in the Champions League, and a 4-0 Premier League win against Bournemouth in 2017.
In that game against Eddie Howe’s side, the England international was one of the best players on the pitch, with Alan Smith naming him man of the match.
The midfielder managed to pick up an assist and even almost found the back of the net after one of his shots hit the post. He created problems for the Cherries’ defence and showed, just as he could do as Liverpool’s No.10.
We can’t just look at one or two games and use it as evidence that the Ox has what it takes to be Klopp’s solution, but what we have seen is that he does possess the traits and abilities that would be associated with a modern-day attacking midfielder.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is confident on the ball and he isn’t afraid to run at defenders. The former Arsenal man loves to drive forward with pace and power, often releasing the ball to one of the other attackers or even hitting one from range and, well, we do know he can hit one!
Even though he could theoretically perform well in this role, it would still take time for Klopp to hone the midfielder’s abilities to turn him into the type of player he was in the market for.
But that shouldn’t be too much of an issue. In the past the gaffer has successfully transitioned players into different roles. Gini Wijnaldum was transformed from an attack-minded midfielder into a No.6 while Roberto Firmino – who the boss views as irreplaceable – has become a living, breathing manual for how to play as an effective ‘false nine’.
The Reds’ pre-season begins on July 11th against Tranmere Rovers, and it represents a perfect opportunity for Klopp to test out the new No.15 in this role with no consequences.
If Klopp likes what he sees and feels he could perform consistently in this role, then there could be no need for Liverpool to sign a No.10. If he doesn’t like Oxlade-Chamberlain in this position then no worries – he can simply be used in the central midfield position he has grown accustomed to on Merseyside.
If would be daft, though, if the manager didn’t even try.