Why Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Must Start for Liverpool Against Manchester City

​Life can't have been easy for Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain over the last couple of years. 

It has been a whirlwind of emotions for the Englishman, whose career has been blighted by serious injuries while his side have enjoyed huge success in his absence. But, the good times are rolling in once more.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has returned to the Liverpool starting lineup with aplomb. His performance and goal against Genk on Tuesday night again highlighted just how crucial he could be to the European champions. The midfielder has scored four goals in his last four games and is currently providing a unique outlet for the Reds.

But while it is all well and good putting in glittering performances against Genk and Arsenal's B team, does this mean that the Ox should start in Liverpool's biggest game of the season so far? Yes, yes it does. 

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain,Sander Berge

The Reds host ​Manchester City on Sunday, a monstrous encounter between two of the greatest Premier League sides many of us have ever witnessed. Anfield awaits, and ​Liverpool know a victory could send them nine points clear of their title challengers before the international break. 

Both sides have been in strong form this season, however, neither side has yet hit 100%. Liverpool certainly have been stuck in second gear for much of the season, despite picking up 31 points from a possible 33, remaining unbeaten in the​ Premier League.

Some of the issues Liverpool have faced this season have come from the midfield. A lack of creativity and mobility in the centre of the park has piled pressure on the front three and full-backs to provide almost all of the Reds' goals. However, they now have a more than apt solution to their problem.

​Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has returned to full fitness and is not only performing at a high individual standard, but is changing games for Liverpool. His direct and incisive runs from midfield are stretching opponents, offering space to the likes of ​Sadio Mane​Roberto Firmino and ​Mohamed Salah. Not only this, but the 26-year-old is adding goals to his game, scoring some absolute wonder strikes from outside the box in recent games.

​Manchester United thought they had set a blueprint for how to face the league leaders, back on 20 October in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. They pushed high and wide, giving no time or space to ​Trent Alexander-Arnold or Andy Robertson on the flanks. This forced the visitors through the middle, and with little imagination from the central three, Liverpool had been stifled. But the introduction of the Ox, alongside ​Adam Lallana and ​Naby Keita, gave Jurgen Klopp's side a dynamic edge, pushing them higher up the pitch and penning Man United in. 

Adam Lallana,Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Since then, Liverpool have had to adapt, and Oxlade-Chamberlain has become the key. Fast forward to this Sunday. Manchester City, the current domestic champions on all fronts, lie in wait. And once more, Oxlade-Chamberlain should be the game changer.

Manchester City's defensive injuries have plagued them this season. Pep Guardiola lost Aymeric Laporte after only four games, and ​Fernandinho has been drafted in to plug the hole. That seemed fine. Rodri had kept Fernandinho out of his favoured position of defensive midfielder anyway, with the new summer signing making steady progress. But, the injury curse struck again, Rodri picking up a hamstring injury in the Citizens' 5-1 win over Atalanta back in late October. 

As a result, Ilkay Gundogan has been playing as Manchester City's most defensive-minded midfielder, and the Sky Blues have just about got away with it. However, they haven't faced as big a test as Liverpool.


Oxlade-Chamberlain could therefore pose City some seismic problems, floating into the space that Gundogan leaves. The absence of a defensive midfielder at times last season for City coincided with dropped points, for example their 2-1 defeat at Leicester last year in which the Foxes physically dominated the likes of ​Bernardo Silva​Kevin De Bruyne and Gundogan in the centre of the park. Looking at this, Liverpool will be licking their lips at the prospect of drafting in the Ox this Sunday. His attacking positioning and pressing will force the visitors backwards and undoubtedly create space for the front line. A potential recipe for disaster as far as Man City are concerned.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has earned a call-up to the starting eleven on Sunday, with his sheer hard work enough to force his way in to the side. He simply has to start against Man City, or else Liverpool risk leaving out a potential match winner. His early substitution against Genk, suggests Klopp may be having similar ideas.

Source : 90min