Two Champions League finals. One defeat, one victory and no Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
For the Liverpool midfielder the last year of his career has been a wretched one. Just a month before the 2017/18 final, he suffered a horrendous knee injury.
The former Arsenal man ruptured his cruciate ligament and would consequently miss not only Liverpool’s biggest game on the European stage since 2007, but also the World Cup.
This was an all too familiar feeling for the man branded ‘The Ox’. He’s no stranger when it comes to injury, but after finding himself in the form of his life, this was a bitter blow.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of football’s nice guys. His vibrant personality has come across numerous times in videos on social channels but even for a player with such a jovial attitude, this would have been hard to take.
At the age of 25, he’s now no longer one of the least experienced members of the team. For all the world it feels like he still is.
Like Theo Walcott, Liverpool’s new number 15 is one of those players you feel will never age.
Though, the reality is that however old you think a footballer is, time is always thin on the ground. Coming through the ranks at Southampton, Oxlade-Chamberlain was one of the most highly rated teenagers around.
A move to Arsenal seemed a natural progression after Walcott’s switch.
But after being restricted to game time and then ultimately being deployed as a wing-back, he moved to Anfield for a fee of £35m.
In Merseyside, he discovered his best form. Initially Jurgen Klopp fielded him in a wider position, however, he was eventually moved more central.
Playing in the middle of the park is a role that’s always best suited the Portsmouth-born man.
One of his finest performances in an Arsenal shirt came from that area of the pitch, scoring twice against Crystal Palace in February 2014.
That feels like a lifetime ago now, especially considering what’s happened in his career since.
After the Gunners won the FA Cup in 2017, he claimed on BT Sport (27/05/17) following the game: “I’ve always wanted to be Steven Gerrard.”
So the way things have gone after that is fitting. Having signed for Liverpool, his most memorable moment since arriving is one Gerrard will have been proud of.
Cast your mind back to April 4 2018 and you’ll see Oxlade-Chamberlain crashing home a long range effort against Manchester City in a phenomenal win for the Reds in Europe.
Comparing that to when he played out wide for Klopp’s side, he only contributed one goal.
Going into next season, a fit and firing Oxlade-Chamberlain can be crucial for the Reds. However, he may have to dislodge Naby Keita in the process.
It’s hard to judge whether the two could play in the same team. Both are energetic midfielders but it may be too much to consider lining them up together.
Keita struggled to adjust to life in the Premier League after first arriving on English soil. His performances were average and after waiting such a long time to actually see him in action, it wasn’t particularly worth it.
But the Guinea international has turned things around. In the month of April he played a starring role, helping himself to three goals.
After signing for £48m Liverpool fans were finally seeing a glimpse of why they paid so much money for his services.
Yet, in Oxlade-Chamberlain they may just have a more complete player.
Klopp’s midfield is one of the few issues he still has to iron out going into next term. If he can fix it, they may well find themselves with the Premier League title in their hands for the first time.
Not since 1989/90 have they won the league, but their returning midfield man could have a vital say in ending that.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s performance against City in the Champions League last year saw him play in a more advanced role, almost playing as a number ten.
Slightly behind him were the reliable figures of Jordan Henderson and James Milner. Therefore, could pushing the 25-year-old further on be an indication of how to play Keita alongside him? Arguably so.
Even against the best opposition Klopp isn’t scared to go attacking and this could work in their favour.
If he wanted to, the German could choose to field the ex-Gunner ahead of Keita and Henderson, but you also have Fabinho to add to the equation. That’s not forgetting semi-final hero Gini Wijnaldum too.
For an area that is still arguably a weakness, the return of Oxlade-Chamberlain puts that to bed.
As we saw in 2018, he was a game changer for Liverpool, adding pace to a central position that’s also been so prominent in wide areas.
If the Reds can create a similar formula during the 2019/20 campaign, they’ll be even more frightening.
Watch out Pep Guardiola.