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Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp’s brave January decision is playing off thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Jurgen Klopp opted against replacing Philippe Coutinho in the January window, instead giving his existing players the opportunity to step up.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made an ambitious move from Arsenal to Liverpool during the summer. Due to his contractual situation, he was a hot property and there was interest from a number of top English clubs.

Chelsea had registered an interest and had a bid accepted by the Gunners, but the England international had his heart set on a move to Anfield. Jurgen Klopp plays a high-energy style that appealed to the 24-year-old, but it hasn’t been straight-forward for him since making the switch.

The main motivation behind leaving Arsenal was that Chamberlain wanted to push on and he felt that a transfer was needed to breathe fresh life into his career.

There was a feeling that he had stagnated at Arsenal, while he was rarely used in his favoured position of central-midfield. Since breaking into senior football, he has been a victim of his own versatility, playing on either wing, at full-back, and in central midfield.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

The quality that Liverpool already had in the middle of the park meant that opportunities there were going to be limited and he needed to take them when he arrived.

However, the sale of Philippe Coutinho opened up a chance for Chamberlain in an advanced midfield role. It was thought that Adam Lallana would be the one to take the spot, but his international team-mate has done very well there and could be the long-term solution in the role.

Although Chamberlain has been given chances in his favoured role of late, it took him some time to earn that opportunity. Klopp viewed him as a natural wide player upon signing and stated that he would need training in order to play centrally, as shown by the following quotes reported by the Mirror:

“I would say there has been no consistency until now. We let him run so far, let him do what he is naturally good at and it will take time but it’s all good. He is obviously powerful and that is what we need.

“At the moment his best position is more the wing that the No 8.

“Without training, playing in the middle of the park doesn’t make sense.”

To begin with, Chamberlain was mainly used from the bench and 14 of his 25 Premier League appearances for Liverpool have come as a substitute.

That is understandable as the Reds have a style under Klopp and it is difficult for players to come straight in to perform immediately. However, he has recently been picked in important matches, such as the victories over Everton and Manchester City since the turn of the year.

There will be rotation at a club as big as Liverpool, but Chamberlain is establishing himself as a starter and at the age of 24, he finally seems to be fulfilling his potential.

He is a good option to have in the centre of the park, as he provides dynamism and drive due to his history on the wing. The England international is willing to run at defenders and puts opposition teams on the back foot, which often leads to space being created for the front three.

The one area of his game that he will want to improve is his own contribution in the final third. At the time of writing, Chamberlain has three goals and four assists, with a goal involvement every 166.1 minutes.

Despite not being one of the main attacking players, he has the potential to produce better final product. If he does get more starts, Klopp would expect him to offer more in the attacking half.

In addition to being good in transition, the former Arsenal player has a high work rate and contributes to the team’s defence, as shown by his average of 1.15 successful tackles and 1.37 interceptions per ninety minutes.

Liverpool want to press high up the pitch and force opposing teams into errors in their own half. Chamberlain is very good at this and that is why a central role suits him at Anfield.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

It was his display against Manchester City that showed the progress that he had made since signing for Jurgen Klopp’s side. He scored and assisted on that day, playing a key part in ending the visitors’ unbeaten Premier League run.

Chamberlain did well in transition, completing five dribbles and three key passes. Meanwhile, he made three ball recoveries off the ball. Given this came just days after the sale of Coutinho, it was a timely performance from the 24-year-old.

Despite being in and out of the team since then, Chamberlain remains the best placed to make the position his own and another strong showing against West Ham this past weekend strengthened his claim.

The midfielder was faultless in transition, as he completed four dribbles and made four key passes. He was the most creative player on the pitch and earned the assist for Mohamed Salah’s goal.

His distribution has developed a lot this season and his pass success rate of 91% underlines that he is making better decisions when he has the ball at his feet.

Jurgen Klopp explained that Chamberlain needed to learn the role and this match showed that he has taken those comments on board. He worked tirelessly without the ball and made four ball recoveries.

It was a complete midfield display and offered encouragement that the former Arsenal player can be an important figure at Anfield.

It was a brave decision to not spend big on a replacement for Coutinho during the January transfer window, but Klopp showed faith in the players already at the club and Chamberlain’s emergence shows that was the right decision.

The challenge is now for the midfielder to continue to impress and make the position his own ahead of the summer. If he plays like he did against West Ham on a consistent basis, he could become a fixture of the first-team for both club and country.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Liverpool

Dejan Lovren epitomises Liverpool’s progression since previous Real Madrid meeting

Max Cohen

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Dejan Lovren
Photo: Getty Images

The last time Liverpool played Real Madrid in the Champions League, the approaches of the two clubs could not have been more different.

The clubs played twice in the 2014 group stage, with Los Blancos smashing Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield and winning 1-0 at the Bernabeu.

Dejan Lovren was particularly culpable for the Reds’ first loss at home, as he was torn to shreds by the combination of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Nonetheless, much has changed at Liverpool since those weak performances more than three years ago, with centre-back Dejan Lovren representing the Reds’ progression from continental lightweights to European Cup finalists.

In an interview this week with The Guardian, the Croatian defender claimed that the current Liverpool side is unrecognisable from the team that surrendered to Real Madrid in their 2014/15 Champions League campaign.

“The only thing that is similar is the name, Liverpool,” Lovren told the Guardian. “I am so much more confident in the team now than I was then. I feel the team is ready to battle against every team in the world.”

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

These confident proclamations mark a fitting response from a player who has come a long way since he first arrived at Anfield.

Lovren has come under immense criticism for his performances at Liverpool, lambasted for a lack of pace, propensity for lapses in concentration, and poor decision making.

And even as recently as October, the Croatian was horribly found out during an abysmal first half performance against Tottenham Hotspur.

Yet, Lovren admirably picked himself up from past disappointment and has become an integral piece of Jurgen Klopp’s defence alongside Virgil van Dijk.

The 28-year-old has played every single minute of the knockout stages in Liverpool’s Champions League campaign, and will surely play a massive role in stifling Real Madrid’s high-octane attack in Kiev.

Dejan Lovren will be hoping for a far different response from Liverpool than their performance some three years ago, and his personal improvement will determine the Reds’ success on Saturday.

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Aston Villa

Aston Villa would be the perfect platform for Harry Wilson if they are promoted

Josh Kerr

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Photo: Getty Images

Aston Villa are 90 minutes of football away from a return to the Premier League, and they are already looking at potential signings for next season if they are promoted.

The Midlands side face Fulham at Wembley on Saturday in the Championship play-off final with a place in the top flight up for grabs. And, should Villa bring an end to two years outside of the promised lands of the Premier League, they will be determined to recruit properly to prepare themselves for next season.

According to the Scottish SunLiverpool are looking for a loan fee of £250,000 to snag impressive academy prospect, Harry Wilson, in a deal that would also see financial penalties issued should he not get the required amount of first-team action.

Wilson has been one of the brightest prospects in the Reds academy for many years and his recent form in the Championship is highlighting why there is such a buzz for this talented youngster and why the Villains should swoop.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Since departing for a temporary move to Hull in the January window, the 21-year-old has been in fine form, netting seven goals in 13 appearances to help Nigel Adkins’ side avoid the drop.

The youngster also made his international debut in his first start for Wales under new boss Ryan Giggs and netted a maiden goal for his country against China.

Despite the winger’s talents, it seems impossible to think that Wilson could break into Liverpool’s irreplaceable ‘fab three’ which means another loan move would be the best option for his development, and Villa’s potential promotion to the Premier League could set up the perfect platform in the top-flight for the youngster.

Loan deals are never ideal, permanent signings are what supporters want to see, but this is is a move that could be a benefit for both parties and something Steve Bruce should strongly consider.

The Villains likely have enough quality at their disposal to compete strongly in the Championship again next season, if they don’t win their play-off, Wilson could give them serious depth.

The winger is an elegant and languid play maker in the mould of Jack Grealish, and the combination of the two could get fans very excited for next season.

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Liverpool

Liverpool should use Alberto Moreno in Jamaal Lascelles pursuit

The Spaniard is struggling for first-team football at Liverpool.

Mathew Coull

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Liverpool have had an excellent season, making it to the Champions League final and finishing in the Premier League top four. But the building for next season is also set to get underway soon and Liverpool still want to further improve their backline. A new centre-back is set to be targeted and The Independent believe that Jamaal Lascelles could be the man Liverpool turn to, with James Tarkowski of Burnley also mentioned.

Lascelles would obviously be a top option. The Newcastle captain has been an inspiration for the club this campaign and many were surprised he did not make it into Gareth Southgate’s plans for the World Cup.

(during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St. James Park on April 15, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

But he will not come cheap and after Liverpool spent big on Virgil Van Dijk in January the Tyneside club will be pushing the price up.

However, could Liverpool have a secret weapon in the form of Alberto Moreno?

Back in 2015 Rafa Benitez very nearly signed Moreno. The deal with Liverpool was done but, with Alvaro Arbeloa sticking around, Benitez decided Moreno was no longer needed and the deal was pulled off the table.

That was whilst manager at Real Madrid. Moreno would be an excellent option to further improve Newcastle and provide some competition to Paul Dummett in the left-back position.

(during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Liverpool and FC Porto at Anfield on March 6, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Liverpool paid Sevilla around £12 million, as reported by The Telegraph, to sign Moreno back in 2014 but he has struggled for consistency since his arrival at Anfield. This season he has been replaced by Andrew Robertson, after spending most of last season behind James Milner in the pecking order.

Throwing Moreno into any deal would have to see Newcastle decrease the fee they might ask for to let their captain go this summer. Newcastle would be getting their hands on a 25-year-old Spanish international and a handsome sum of money, whilst Liverpool would get their defensive target.

It would be a fine piece of business for both clubs.

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