Rumours were flying around left, right and centre regarding a potential return to Anfield for Philippe Coutinho at the moment.
Coutinho’s failed to live up to his ‘O Magico’ nickname in Barcelona and could be on the move again.
Of course, it’s silly season so all rumours as sensational as this should be taken with a large pinch of salt.Embed from Getty Images
However, those rumours linking him with a sensational return to Liverpool seem to not being going anywhere.
In fact, Jurgen Klopp himself dispelled the rumours himself.
While Coutinho’s return would, in my opinion, positively bolster Liverpool’s squad, it would have ramifications for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Power of the Ox
The former Arsenal man was missed by Klopp and Liverpool last season after his horrendous knee injury suffered against Roma.
But now, after fighting back to full fitness and impressing in pre-season, he looks set to push on again.
He was arguably one of Liverpool’s stand-out performers in the 2017/18 season with his incisive runs and deft assists.Embed from Getty Images
After many quaffed at the £35 million Liverpool paid for him, Chamberlain really proved his worth that season.
Klopp has since waited for him like a wife whose husband is in prison and he’ll no doubt be an asset this season.
Chamberlain will likely occupy an advanced attacking midfield role, reigniting his partnership with Mo Salah.
Coutinho vs Oxlade-Chamberlain
But should the German manager choose to bring Coutinho back, he’d likely be chosen to play in a similar role.
It’s something he made his own during his stint in the first team and proved a changed man from his Arsenal days.
He was involved in plenty of goals and some of his individual performances helped inspire some great victories.
Think back to the first leg against Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-final.Embed from Getty Images
He picked holes in City’s backline and dovetailed beautifully with Firmino, Salah and Mané.
The spaces he occupied between Liverpool’s midfield and City’s defence caused them real problems.
He did the same against Guardiola’s men in the 4-3 victory at Anfield in the Premier League.
Now it could be argued that that’ the role that Coutinho vacated when he left for Barcelona.
And for all of those naysayers who point out that Klopp hasn’t replaced Coutinho, perhaps this is why.
Is Oxlade-Chamberlain the long-term Coutinho replacement?
Yes, Coutinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain did at times feature in the same team but that’s almost ancient history now.
That Liverpool side in comparison to the one you see today is a totally different entity.
This team is one that’s more built to suit Chamberlain than it is Coutinho.
So what would Coutinho’s potential readmission to Anfield folklore mean for the Ox?
It’s difficult to see how you would end up fitting both into the same side, in all honesty.
At present, and with Liverpool’s recent defensive resurgence, Oxlade-Chamberlain fits in far better than Coutinho.
His hard work, strength and tough tackling make him far more suited to ensuring Liverpool stay potent both in attack and defensively.
There may be the argument that Coutinho is more of a threat going forward, and that’s probably true.
Coutinho’s game is geared around that but Chamberlain did more than his fair share to contribute going forward.
You could see a difference in his final ball and decision making as the season went on, and he scored vital goals too.
So to bring Coutinho back would undoubtedly strengthen Liverpool, but it limits Ox.
He struggled at Arsenal due to lack of consistent game time and being played out of position.
Adding Coutinho back into the mix only further increases the chances of that happening for him again at Liverpool.
And that would be a real shame.
I’m not against bringing ‘O Magico’ back to Anfield, but I don’t feel it’s a necessity given Ox’s return to fitness.
And as I’ve previously stated, I think Chamberlain suits us more than Coutinho at present.
That being said – having a bigger, better squad is never a bad thing.
Make of my indecision what you will.