After bursting on to the scene with Southampton, there were high hopes for the career Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was expected to enjoy. Indeed, his first couple of seasons following his move to Arsenal certainly raised the bar even more. But, just as the north London side seemed to suffer a downturn in form, so did the England international.
The last period of the winger’s time with the Gunners was fraught with injuries and it certainly didn’t help that his team weren’t performing to high standards either. A move to Liverpool seemed to reinvigorate him and there were again flashes of real brilliance; that wonder strike against Manchester City springs to mind.
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However, the injury curse struck again and Oxlade-Chamberlain promptly missed a year of football from April 2018. But, having returned towards the closing stages of last season, and with a full pre-season in which to impress, next year could finally be the Englishman’s time.
Despite lifting the Champions League trophy last season, one of the big criticisms of Jurgen Klopp’s side was the players he had in midfield. Jordan Henderson. Fabinho. James Milner. All workaholics, willing to put their bodies on the line for the cause, but no one really with the ingenuity of a defence-splitting pass or piece of magic.
Step forward, Oxlade-Chamberlain. Whilst predominantly a winger throughout his career, the 25-year-old has been used sparingly in the middle of the park. At Liverpool, the results have been mixed, but there are definite signs from previous games that it could be the making of his career.
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Speaking back in January 2014, former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger declared: “He will be deeper as he has a good long ball, penetration from deep and a good quality to distribute and penetrate individually. Certainly he has the same qualities to Steven Gerrard. His future will be there.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s winger-like pace and dribbling qualities certainly offer Liverpool something that is desperately lacking in their midfield. The ability to beat a man from the middle of the park will always open up more spaces for the ferocious front three.
Naby Keita showed flashes of it in his debut campaign, but Oxlade-Chamberlain’s drive and tenacity could see him thrive as the creator in midfield, just as Wenger predicted.
After missing out on the Premier League title last year, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s return to full fitness could add the energy and invention the Reds need to finally pip Manchester City.