On Tuesday, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp sent out an almost entirely rotated side stocked heavily with fringe first team players and promising youngsters against Seria A leaders AC Milan at the San Siro.
It was a game that didn’t matter at all for the Reds given they’d already qualified for the Champions League knockout rounds. It was a game that mattered massively to Milan. And in the end, Liverpool won it 2-1.
“I think the team is in the best shape it’s [ever] been,” was midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s take on the situation as he reflected on a victory that seemed far easier than it should have in the circumstances.
“I think that comes with playing together for years,” he explained. “Having moments of success, understanding what we needed to do, the levels we have to set and how relentless we have to be to achieve things.”
For Oxlade-Chamberlain, it was also a night that hinted at a player who just might be getting back to something like the form he showed when first signing for Liverpool and before a serious knee injury set him back.
At a personal level that’s great news for the player. It’s also great news for Klopp and the club with games coming thick and fast over the holiday period and Africa’s Cup of Nations complicating matters in the new year.
“I think that just stands us in good stead every game going forward,” he added. “Whether it’s the Carabao Cup, the FA Cup will be starting soon, the last few Champions League games where we’ve made changes.
“Maybe in recent seasons when we make so many changes it doesn’t always go the way you want and the performance drops, but I think tonight was a good example. We can be proud that the whole squad is important.”