Having received praise from Jurgen Klopp for a pre-season outing as a false nine, it seemed almost inevitable Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would split Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah at some stage this season.
Following another 15 minute audition in the position in midweek, the 28-year-old was called upon to fill the role from the outset in the Premier League.
After the match, Paul Merson told Sky Sports News (5:22pm, December 11, 2021) that Oxlade-Chamberlain had struggled to shine.
It has never been a position. So you are asking someone to play in a position that isn’t a position. So it was hard, it was hard for him. Villa sat very deep, they pinged them back. For me, I thought he found it a little bit difficult today.
Whilst it may not be a recognised position in years gone by, ‘complete’ footballer Firmino has mastered the role and now plays ’12 instruments in our orchestra’ according to Klopp.
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It’s no slight on Oxlade-Chamberlain to criticise his performance in an unfamiliar role.
Recently the Englishman has been in superb form and may feel hard done by to have lost a place in the midfield trio.
However, this 6.60 rated display (Sofascore) was far from convincing as the ex-Arsenal man seemed drawn deep into a more comfortable driving midfielder role.
As the Reds move onto clashes Newcastle United, Tottenham and Leicester City in quick succession, Kopites will hope Origi, Jota and Firmino are ready to go.