Liverpool are struggling against one tactic but Jürgen Klopp has two vertical solutions in his squad
Both Atlético Madrid and Norwich City have succeeded in restricting the space between Liverpool's midfield and attack, but Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could fix things.
Over the course of his tenure at Anfield, Jürgen Klopp has developed a system that is supremely functional. The Reds have an elite front three comprising of fast, highly unpredictable players, a midfield full of industry, and a defence that is largely impenetrable.
The 4-3-3 setup is perfectly balanced, hence the world champions have managed to accumulate 22 points more than any other team in the Premier League this season after 26 matches played However, occasionally, one area in particular receives scrutiny. Liverpool's midfield seems to become a talking point whenever the team struggle to find the net. That doesn't happen very often, but when it does, people are quick to identify the limitations of those selected as problematic. Since the winter break, Liverpool have played 180 minutes of football, scoring only once.
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Unsurprisingly, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are now being talked about as potential solutions for whenever the Anfield club have to break down a low defensive block. The pair offer something different to the usual starters that Klopp favours, as they both possess offensive qualities that can be applied to certain match scenarios as a means of finding the net. Keita uses the ball in an unorthodox manner. Pep Ljinders once stated that the Guinean adds 'unpredictability' to the team's build-up play.
The 25-year-old is bold in possession and rather than playing safe, he's inclined to take risks. He's the type to drive and dribble with the ball at his feet when presented with a stubborn block, with an example against Norwich City pictured below.
In all competitions this season, Keita is averaging 3.5 dribbles and 3.2 progressive runs per 90, with the latter essentially being a carry that moves the ball considerably forwards without taking on an opponent. For perspective, 55 central midfielders have amassed over 1,000 minutes in the Premier League this season, with only six of those dribbling more frequently than Keita and in regard to progressive runs, no player is averaging more than three per 90.
In terms of his passing, only four players are hitting through passes more often than Keita, while only 11 attempt to find the penalty box with greater frequency. He's an incredibly useful and unique player providing his skills are valued, and once he's presented with breaking down a stubborn defence, his unconventional actions can change matches.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is similar, as he dribbles almost exactly the same amount as Keita when playing in central midfield, although he makes almost half the number of progressive runs. However, the English international offers something that nobody else in the Liverpool squad does - a shooting threat from outside the penalty box. He's scored seven goals in total so far this season, with four of those originating from outside the area.
mostly because better options are often available, but Oxlade-Chamberlain seems to be the one player who's afforded a license to essentially have a go. Those efforts aren't always productive but when against a deep-sitting defence, his shooting threat could simply be perceived as another means of finding a solution to score beyond the usual routes.
The duo aren't yet established starters under Klopp but whenever he's required to find a key to the door, both have the capacity to contribute in ways that others can't, which may be particularly relevant considering the upcoming prospect of Atletico Madrid in three weeks' time.