By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
‘Panache’ is a word with positive connotations, but is so often used in negative circumstances.
It is supposed to describe someone who has performed an action with confidence and flair, but the word can lead to unpleasant mutterings of style over substance.
So when I say that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played against Newcastle United with great panache, some might think that I am being – to some extent – critical of his showing. I want to make it abundantly clear that this is far from the truth.
In his first start at Anfield since picking up that horrific injury against Roma in 2018, he produced 75 minutes of keen running, crisp passing and confidence on the ball before being replaced by James Milner and departing the pitch to a standing ovation.
He wasn’t as involved as the others in Liverpool’s midfield three, taking 70 touches compared to Georginio Wijnaldum’s 92 and Fabinho’s 89, but whenever he was there was a sense that the Englishman is close to getting back to his scintillating best.
There are few midfielders around so happy to just run with the ball. Oxlade-Chamberlain looked delighted every time he was in possession. It was his time to push his side further up the pitch. It was his time to shine.
A speculative effort from range in the first half exemplified his confidence. The most encouraging thing about it was that it wasn’t too far away, flying two or three feet wide of Martin Dúbravka’s right post. It’s one more sign that the ability is still there despite his lengthy layoff.
He wasn’t perfect. There were some misplaced passes, a few wrong decisions made and one time that he overran with the ball and lost it.
But for him to produce this performance now, just as Liverpool’s Champions League and Carabao Cup campaigns are about to begin and they need to use the squad more, is encouraging for Jürgen Klopp as well as for himself.
Almost a full match played against the Magpies means he is unlikely to play a major role in Naples on Tuesday, but more game time is inevitable for the England international now.
And when he is properly back to his best, Liverpool will once again have at their disposal an attacking midfield player full of confidence, quality and – in the best sense – panache.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain vs. Newcastle United – Stat pack
Minutes played – 75
Touches – 70
Passes attempted – 56
Pass success rate – 95%
Key passes – 1
Dribbles attempted – 3
Dribble success rate – 67%
Shots – 2
Shots on target – 1