After facing more than his fair share of adversity, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain greatly benefitted from completing a full pre-season to cause Jurgen Klopp a selection headache.
The No. 15 has not been short of hurdles to overcome throughout his Anfield career to date, ensuring his summer preparations were as important as ever to building a strong foundation.
It was not the case last summer when a knee injury halted his progress, leading to a season on the fringes to which he never recovered having played just 286 minutes.
But this pre-season, Oxlade-Chamberlain made five appearances for 285 minutes, a tally bettered by only five Reds as he looked to have turned back the clock when playing in midfield.
It’s opened the door for a strong start to the new campaign with spots still up for grabs on Saturday with Jordan Henderson and Thiago still playing catch up.
It’s a fight for places that Klopp is savouring as placing “pressure on each other in a very positive way” is what will drive his team to success, and Oxlade-Chamberlain is doing just that.
“Look, I know Ox for so long now it was not necessary to talk. It was clear what the thing is – he needed a full pre-season. [The same] for plenty of players,” Klopp told the club’s official website.
“For Taki, it was the first pre-season with us properly; it was the first pre-season for a long time with Ox.
“It helps for all of them who were part of all the sessions, that helps and you can then get the games.
“I think Ox played in six pre-season games, was part of it, Taki probably as well. You can see then how much it means.
“That’s what you need and now we have a proper situation and with how it looked tonight, come on, make the line-up for Norwich. Who do you want to leave out after these two games?
“That’s how it should be, the boys had to put pressure on themselves with the performances they put on the pitch and that’s what you wish for in an ideal world.
“Hopefully, they can all stay fit and they can put for the whole season pressure on each other in a very positive way – who wants to play has to play like we did today or in yesterday in moments.
“That’s the football we want to play and that’s the football that made us successful and could potentially make us successful again.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of a number of fringe players to have made a notable impression throughout pre-season, including Takumi Minamino, Naby Keita and Kostas Tsimikas, which holds Liverpool in good stead for the season to come.