Henderson delighted with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lallana progress in Liverpool pre-season

From Jordan Henderson, the message was clear.

“Our focus,” said the Liverpool captain, “is on what’s in front of us.”

The Reds have enjoyed their summer, of course. How could they not, having ended an epic campaign as European champions? 

But if you were thinking they’d be ready to rest at the summit, you’d be mistaken.

“Football moves very quickly,” pointed out Henderson, speaking at a press conference to preview his side’s pre-season friendly with Borussia Dortmund on Friday night. “We will never forget what happened in Madrid, but the focus has to be on the future.”

Liverpool have looked sharp in their two friendly matches so far, recording comfortable wins against both Tranmere and Bradford, but the heat and humidity of South Bend, Indiana and the arrival of Bundesliga runners-up Dortmund should offer a stiffer test of their credentials. The iconic Notre Dame Stadium will provide an impressive setting for the game.

Liverpool’s team will be solidified by the presence of five of their Champions League winners, with Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Gini Wijnaldum, Andy Robertson and Henderson himself all ready to make their first appearance of the summer. 

They will join a squad bolstered not by new signings, but by returning friends. Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri remain absent, but the sight of Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, fit and firing, is a welcome one, and should improve the Reds’ chances of success in the coming season.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Liverpool 2019-20

Oxlade-Chamberlain in particular represents a potential game-changer. The England midfielder managed just a pair of substitute appearances last season after suffering a devastating knee injury the previous April, but is ready to give Jurgen Klopp a significant boost with the new campaign just three weeks away. 

“He’s a fantastic person off the field,” Henderson said. “Last season he was a massive part behind the scenes even though he had a bad injury and I’m sure he was going through some painful times but he was always positive, always happy around the team and always there to support us when we needed him.  

“He was a massive part off the field for us last season and this season hopefully he will be a massive part on the field as well. Hopefully he will show everyone what he is capable of like he did before he got injured.  

“He has looked so strong, so good in training. This pre-season is important for him to get back to playing games regularly, get his match fitness back and once he does that I’m sure he will be flying again.  

“He is like a new signing for us. He is such a fantastic player for us, so powerful and he gives us something different. He is a massive player to have back. Hopefully he can stay injury free for a while.” 

Lallana, too, could do with a bit of luck on the injury front. Once a staple of Klopp’s team, the 31-year-old has started just nine games across the past two seasons, with a series of muscle injuries limiting his involvement. 

Like Oxlade-Chamberlain, though, he has been prominent in pre-season, used surprisingly in a deep-lying midfield role against both Tranmere and Bradford. Klopp compared him to Jorginho, the Chelsea playmaker, earlier in the week. 

“Adam has taken to that role really well in training and the games I’ve seen in pre-season,” said Henderson. 

“He’s a fantastic footballer so he can play anywhere on the pitch really. He gives us something different in that position, the way that he receives the ball, he can get out of tight situations, he can open the play up for us and start the play really well. 

Adam Lallana Liverpool 2019-20

“I’m excited to see what he can bring us in that position. He is enjoying it, he is learning and improving. 

“I’ve learned that position over the last few seasons as best I can so I will try to help him as well as Fabinho, who does that role fantastically well. Adam will have his own style in that position and I’m excited to see what he can bring that position.”

As for Henderson, the question might be ‘6 or 8’. Having performed admirably in a deep role, he enjoyed a strong run of form last season when moved into a more attacking midfield spot.

“It’s up to the manager,” he said, when asked his preference. “I can play as an 8, I can play as a 6. It is wherever I’m needed and wherever the manager wants me to play on a particular day. 

“I’ve enjoyed when I’ve played that position a little higher up, but I enjoy both positions. I just want to contribute as much as I can and help the team as much as I can. I will do whatever the manager tells me to.”