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Klopp Talk: On Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

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The gaffer addresses the substitution on the weekend that’s got some corners of Liverpool fandom abuzz.

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Liverpool FC v CR Flamengo - FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

The thing about big and successful football clubs is that they are seemingly often both too filled with talent and replete with it all at the same time. Now, that paradox is likely driven by the short-term, intense-focus of the view of fans. But there’s reason to see that it exists even beyond that scope.

For example, Liverpool’s midfield is pretty stacked. And even allowing for the inevitable injuries, many people would recognize that many of these very talented players would still be fighting for every inch of playing time that they could find.

Throughout this season, we’ve seen midfields that have included Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, James Milner, Georgina Wijnaldum, Naby Keita, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Not to mention new addition Takumi Minamino, brief appearances by Xherdan Shaqiri and Adam Lallana, and fringe youth players like Curtis Jones. That’s a lot of players.

And even with the clear top line of Hendo, Fabs, Milly, Gini, The Admiral, and AOC, it’s still quite the glut. So, given the substitution of The Admiral for AOC on the weekend’s match against West Ham, some folks began wondering aloud about the midfield hierarchy and playing time.

During his press conference ahead of the match with Watford, Jurgen Klopp took time to address that substitution and talk about the importance of all of his players.

“They don’t compete against each other. Hopefully they don’t see it like this, it’s not like this, they just offer naturally different things. Naby can play better than he played [versus West Ham] obviously, but that was not the reason [for the substitution]: the game was like it was and Oxlade came on completely fresh and with his natural skill, having direction, speed - it’s a different player.”

It all looks pretty obvious - both players bring different skillsets even if they can operate in kind of similar roles as the furthest forward attacking midfielder - but I think fans can often forget that. Especially considering the state of Liverpool’s ambitions in all competitions, it’s going to be natural to carry a bigger squad that might bring with it the natural desire and jockeying for playing time that would exist among any group of talented and competitive athletes.

This team, in particular, looks entirely united in meeting its mission: to win everything they possibly can, starting with the match in front of them. It’s a wonderful thing to see.