Jurgen Klopp’s assistant has been talking up the pair after their influential performances against Genk in the Champions League last week
Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders has talked up the importance of Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after their performances against Genk in the Champions League last week.
Oxlade-Chamberlain scored twice against the Belgian champions, the first a rifled effort from long range and the second a one-touch wonder off the outside of his right boot. Keita, meanwhile, was influential in the middle of the park as Jurgen Klopp’s side roared to a 4-1 win.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had to work his way back from a serious knee injury last season which kept him out for the majority of the campaign, while Keita also had his progress disrupted by a series of scrapes and knocks. Now, though, Lijnders is confident that both are coming back to their best and ready to have a big impact.
“In the start of the season, we had not as many games and we could create a real stability around the team and many times keep, not the same XI, but the same core group,” he told the press on Tuesday. “You saw already what it did for Ox, by playing game [by] game, in how he contributed in Genk. That’s why it’s really important.
“As I’ve said before, from the bench we want players who can come in and really make an impact and so far we’ve had that. We want to keep that. By making a bigger impact in games, they need rhythm, they need consistency and this is a perfect moment again to change a few things.”
Liverpool host Arsenal in the EFL Cup on Wednesday evening and both Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain are likely to feature. Both were rested against Tottenham at the weekend and Oxlade-Chamberlain will no doubt be keen to play against his old team.
Asked about Oxlade-Chamberlain’s long journey back from injury, Lijnders said: “Ox, of course, is a very sad story with the injury. He was very important for us just before [it happened], as everybody knows. We want to give him time and we know it will come.
“If he keeps his aggression offensively and defensively, [we know] how he can play – that real offensive aggression – and then everything will come, but that needs time after an injury like that.
“We’ve seen glimpses already and we’ve seen really good phases and for him and – he said it himself – he wants to do it now for 95 minutes and two times 95 minutes. That will be the next step, but he’s very important for us because he gives us a completely different dynamic to create.
“Naby was unlucky with his injury this season. A first year at a club like Liverpool with a new style in the Premier League, we all know that takes time, but we can all see what a magnificent player he is and what he can do to our team.
“Especially in how he brings the ball into the final third and how he disorganises opposition. It is important for both, like every single player, to stay fit and gain regularity and gain consistency.”
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