Discover more from Empire of the Kop - Insider
Oxlade-Chamberlain's new role suggests two Liverpool stars' days are numbered 👀
Jurgen Klopp has fielded the midfielder as a No.9 in Roberto Firmino's absence during pre-season
The prior campaign left Jurgen Klopp with arguably a lot of unanswered questions, a prime one regarding the future of link-up man Roberto Firmino.
‘Bobby Dazzler’ has been an integral part of this Liverpool side, if you ask Reds fans, and an enigma to others, if you ask neutrals focused on his surface level stats.
More recently, however, a number of the 29-year-old’s congregation have converted to the church of the unfaithful, questioning the extent to which the striker remains a key part of the first-XI.
Nonetheless, the reinstatement of Fabinho in the midfield, as the club found its backline security in Bolton-born defender Nathaniel Phillips, had the effect of galvanising the squad.
Thiago Alcantara directly benefitted from the Brazil international’s presence, with Liverpool mounting a remarkable end-of-season run to secure top four football, a run that saw Firmino and Sadio Mane discover some late form.
What effect then, one may reasonably ask, will the return of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have on our once struggling stars?
In the meantime, whilst our Brazilian contingent have taken some rest following the national outfit’s run to the Copa America final, Klopp has experimented with his lineup, slotting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the vacant No.9 spot.
Though the Englishman has certainly got into some interesting places in the position, he hasn’t exactly excelled thus far in pre-season.
More to the point, however, it raises questions as to the club’s intentions regarding the futures of Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino.
The pair were fielded in the weaker of two XIs against Wacker Innsbruck, which admittedly isn’t necessarily indicative of importance given that they shared the pitch with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joel Matip.
The Belgian international later captained the Reds in the second-half of the full-length clash with Mainz.
Nonetheless, putting that to one side, what seems most pertinent when considering the pair’s use in pre-season is that neither player was considered as an alternative to Firmino (alongside Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah) ahead of Oxlade-Chamberlain.
We know the club aren’t actively looking to sell either Origi or Minamino (albeit, with the understanding that Liverpool won’t stand in the way of the former’s exit), but where does the No.9 snub leave the Japan international?
He’s not a typical starter for Jurgen Klopp’s first-team, having been bizarrely overlooked by the German after playing a starring role in the 7-0 blitz of Crystal Palace before the turn of the year.
On that basis, you’d classify the former RB Salzburg star as a ‘fringe’ player, though it’s difficult to confidently lob the forward onto the pile of deadwood we’ve been filtering out in the transfer window.
He got on the scoresheet three times in the league in contrast to our other backup forwards, Xherdan Shaqiri and Origi, who registered a grand total of zero efforts between them in the English top-flight last term.
Hardly impressive figures from Minamino but it perhaps suggests that he’s not entirely a lost cause.
Indeed, having only been at Liverpool for a year and a half (a considerable proportion of which was spent on loan in the South Coast), one might be reasonably inclined to argue that it would be rash to part ways with the 26-year-old this summer.
There is the target of £60m in player sales to consider, though it’s more than possible for the club to raise revenue through other avenues - i.e. Origi and Shaqiri, the latter of whom has already registered an interest in seeking pastures new.
That being said, should Liverpool remain interested in adding a new forward to the ranks, the additional availability of Diogo Jota and Harvey Elliott (unless Klopp plans to use the youngster in midfield) could leave Minamino with little in the way of game time, which takes us right back to square one.
If you’re of fan of this kind of content, all completely ad-free, then feel free to hit the subscribe button below and become an EOTK Insider. Dig into exclusive tidbits reserved only for our subscribers!