Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is something of a Jekyll and Hyde player but he is happy to embrace both aspects of his game as it benefits his side.
The England international has not started back-to-back matches since July 2020 but has been in the XI for two of the last three and played 81 minutes of the other.
Klopp suggested the 28-year-old had been, on occasions, trying too hard to impress after an injury-plagued last couple of years but he was nevertheless happy with the way he had performed.
Midfield has been a problem area with James Milner, Naby Keita and Curtis Jones out and Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara – after a six-week absence – only just returning.
“Massive. Massive. He played a really good game against Atletico (in midweek), very mature,” said the Reds boss when asked about the importance of the midfielder getting regular game time.
“He had his ‘Oxlade-Chamberlain’ moments – good with the ball and all that kind of stuff – but we need ‘Mr Oxlade-Chamberlain’ as well, the mature one, the calm one, the closing one.
“We had a proper talk before the game about what we expect and he fulfilled the role really well and I was happy with him.
“The problem is, when you haven’t played for a long time and you consider the situation, you think you have to convince people.
“Then it’s probably more the ‘speed ups’ and they are brilliant but there is not always the space for it.
“I was so happy for him he could mix it up because we need both. We have usually both but when he hasn’t played for a long time he tries to over-achieve in a game.
“But it was, in a positive way, a relaxed performance but really helpful to the team.
“That’s how you get rhythm and when you play like this, it will not be long before you play again.”
Liverpool head to West Ham on Sunday looking to set a new club record of 26 matches unbeaten.
But they will face in-form opponents who are excelling in David Moyes’ second spell in charge.
“It’s good fun watching them. They became a high-intensity team and you can only do that when you are on the front foot,” he said.
“When you want to finish off the situation you need top strikers and that’s what they have. I like (Jarrod) Bowen a lot, he made his way up from Hull and didn’t take too long to get there. He made big steps.
“Michail Antonio has played five or six different positions since I was in England: he is a a proper, proper striker. (Said) Benrahma is a really exciting one.
“The only problem West Ham have, which we all have, is this league is so incredibly good and you have to be on your top (form) every single day.
“The better you get the more pressure you have to win games.
“We know we face an exceptionally well-organised, well-trained, well-equipped opponent on Sunday.”