Now that the dust has settled on transfer deadline day, it is time to reflect on the performance of clubs and the players that they signed. One of the biggest deadline day deals centred around Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who, despite being away on England duty, managed to agree a £40 million switch from Arsenal to Liverpool.
In turning down champions Chelsea, Oxlade-Chamberlain made a bold call and made it clear that he wanted to operate predominantly as a central midfielder at whichever club he joined.
While manager Jurgen Klopp clearly shares this vision and will look to deploy Oxlade-Chamberlain’s power and drive in the centre of the park whenever possible, the versatility of the star also means that he can be played as a winger, an attacking midfielder and even a roving wing-back.
So, how could Liverpool line up with Oxlade-Chamberlain in the side, particularly once the club’s talisman Philippe Coutinho is fit? The Boot Room asseses Klopp’s options:
4-3-3 with Oxlade-Chamberlain in central midfield
Many fans have suggested that Oxlade-Chamberlain could slot easily into Liverpool’s existing 4-3-3 formation, alongside captain Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum. However, this would force Emre Can out of the side, which seems unlikely given that the German has been in imperious form of late and offers Klopp considerable technical quality and a wider range of passing in the centre of the park.
With this in mind, Oxlade-Chamberlain would be a more fitting replacement for the inconsistent Wijnaldum, who despite excelling in the recent 4-0 win against Arsenal came under significant fire for his performance against Watford on the opening game of the season. The Englishman could certainly match Wijnaldum’s power and energy in midfield, while his direct running and ability to carry the ball from deep would add an interesting dimension to the Reds’ play.
However, Oxlade-Chamberlain would not offer as much cover in front of the back four, so Klopp may need to experiment with his midfield line-up in order to achieve his ideal balance.
4-2-3-1 with Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right and Coutinho in the hole
Another option is to utilise Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pace and dribbling skills in an advanced right wing role, while looking to reintegrate the returning Philippe Coutinho in the hole behind Roberto Firmino (with Sadio Mane operating on the left-hand side).
Firmino has certainly excelled as a false number nine so far this season, with Sadio Mane’s form and his ability to penetrate defences when cutting inside from the left flank having also wowed Liverpool’s fans. This leaves two potential places in a fluid, 4-2-3-1 formation, with Coutinho’s vision, guile and movement making him ideally suited to playing in a central role behind Firmino.
Oxlade-Chamberlain can then be rotated with summer signing Mohamed Salah on the right-hand side, although these players would all have the license to roam and interchange as part of Liverpool’s fast and fluid attacking philosophy.
This makes for a mouth-watering attacking line-up, and one that offers pace, movement and penetration in abundance. The question that remains is whether Oxlade-Chamberlain would be happy in such a role, particularly given his stated preference for playing in the centre?
4-1-2-1-2 with Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right of a midfield diamond
Similarly, Liverpool also seem to have the requisite players to deploy a classic diamond formation after the signing of Oxlade-Chamberlain. This would see former Arsenal man deployed on the right-hand side of the midfield diamond, with Jordan Henderson at the base and Wijnaldum on the left. Coutinho could then be left to roam from the tip of the diamond, while Salah, Mane, Sturridge and Firmino compete for the two forward roles.
With Liverpool’s strikers liable to drop deep and pull wide when the Reds are in possession, this would create space for Coutinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain Wijnaldum and to move into. In particular, Firmino could drop deeper to help Liverpool saturate the midfield and create more options for the man on the ball when the Reds have possession, while the system can easily become an organised 4-5-1 (with Mane moving out the wide areas) when Klopp’s men are defending.
There is even scope for Coutinho to play deeper on the left-hand side of the diamond, creating a more attacking line-up that can see Firmino at the tip and two from Mane, Salah and Daniel Sturridge leading the attack.
Clearly Klopp has options, with the returning Coutinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain capable of offering diversity and tactical flexibility in equal measure. The key will be for the German to strike the ideal balance in his new-look side, while looking to get the best out each individual at his disposal.
So how do you think Liverpool should line-up with Coutinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain? Let us know in the comments below: