Jurgen Klopp obviously knew what was coming when, speaking to the ECHO this summer, he was asked about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

"Fit… if that’s not a new signing, then I don’t know!" exclaimed the Reds boss. "To buy him, after the impression we got when he played for us, what do we think the price would be to buy that level of player?!?"

Fortunately for Liverpool, the £35million they handed Arsenal for the services of the attacking midfielder appears safe for at least another year after the player penned a new deal that extends his Anfield commitment until the summer of 2023.

 

Having missed more than 12 months with a serious knee injury, for Oxlade-Chamberlain it's a matter of making up for lost time.

For Klopp, though, it's about having an extra, different option in a midfield that has already proven its effectiveness by helping Liverpool win the Champions League last season and achieve a club record 97 points in the Premier League.

While quite rightly taking a careful approach to Oxlade-Chamberlain's rehabilitation, there was always going to be a time when the player would have to be given a stern test.

That came last week. Klopp intimated he made a mistake by placing the 26-year-old in an unfamiliar left wing position in the UEFA Super Cup win over Chelsea on his first start in 16 months, unable to do himself justice as the team floundered around him before being hooked at half-time.

Less than three days later, though, Oxlade-Chamberlain blossomed in an attacking central midfield role and lasted 89 minutes in the hard-earned win against Southampton.

Now, as another of his former clubs, Arsenal, lie in wait at Anfield on Saturday evening, Klopp has a welcome headache with which to contend.

Fabinho has become a key figure for Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool
Fabinho has become a key figure for Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool

Midfield, always a key department in any team, is even more so given the unique demands the Reds boss places on the engine room.

Oxlade-Chamberlain discovered that during the opening months of his Reds career. So too Fabinho, while Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner have been regularly switched around to maximise their qualities.

And that's how Klopp will most likely continue, further developing the horses for courses approach that served Liverpool well last term.

 

Trying to determine a first-choice Liverpool midfield is, by and large, a futile exercise. There isn't one.

Indeed, the Fabinho-Henderson-Wijnaldum triumvirate that began the Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur was starting a game together in midfield for only the fifth time.

Oxlade-Chamberlain's forward thrust offers something different and increases the ability to mix and match.

Jordan Henderson reacts during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Norwich City
Jordan Henderson reacts during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Norwich City

Of course, each player excels in a slightly different area - Fabinho the clear preferred choice as number six, for example - but Wijnaldum made a decent fist of the role at St Mary's and allowed his Brazilian team-mate a rest before a late cameo helped Liverpool over the line.

Naby Keita, again unavailable through injury this weekend, will add another option, while Adam Lallana, who Klopp believes can deputise for Fabinho on occasion, can expect chances.

Arsenal boss Unai Emery will no doubt prepare his side for most midfield eventualities. However, he won't know for sure what he'll be facing.

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And that unpredictability can work in Liverpool's favour. Consistency has its place and will be of benefit at stages of the season, but with the Reds' players so well attuned to Klopp's methods and each other, it's opponents who will be left guessing.

In a title battle to depose Manchester City that is again likely to be nip and tuck, such small advantages can count for a lot.