Liverpool are planning to offer up a 12-month extension to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s existing contract at Anfield, which would effectively compensate for his year off due to a serious knee injury that saw him sit out of the majority of last season. During this tactical analysis, we discuss why Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would be beneficial to Jürgen Klopp’s side, with the use of statistics.
The former Arsenal midfielder joined the club from the North-London outfit back in the summer of 2017 for a reported £40m move, which took many by surprise as he didn’t appear to be leaving the capital at any point during the transfer window. However, the switch was made as the Southampton Academy graduate moved to Merseyside and the 25-year-old signed a five-year contract with Arsenal’s Premier League rivals.
The 2018/19 season may as well have been a write off for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as Jürgen Klopp described the campaign as “a year of rehabilitation and recovery” as he began working hard on recovering from an injury which forced him out of the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid in Kiev.
Klopp’s words rang true as “The Ox” only conjured up 19 minutes of playing in the Premier League last season, according to Who Scored, with two appearances off the bench. This unfortunate statistic has been a bucking trend throughout his short career so far. The most minutes Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has ever accumulated in a single season is 1563, these were combined with 16 starts and 13 from the bench for Arsenal during the 2016/17 season, and still only scored two goals during that time.
It’s almost as if Oxlade-Chamberlain has contracted an injury plague that he just can’t seem to shake off. His knee injury during the Champions League semi-final against Roma was the third of his career, as well as an array of hip, thigh and hamstring injuries which have seen him injured at least once for every season playing as a professional.
His first season at Anfield was arguably his best season as a Premier League player, in all competitions he scored five goals, including an unforgettable strike at the Kop end against Manchester City in the Champions League, and claimed seven assists during his first season in Liverpool red.
A goalscoring midfielder is something that Liverpool have really lacked compared to Premier League rivals Manchester City, with the likes of Bernardo Silva in their arsenal. Would Oxlade-Chamberlain fill the void that the Reds have been looking for? Not to excuse the 97 points that they accumulated last season, but Jurgen Klopp knows that his side are not far away from a Premier League crown.
It’s safe to say over the past six seasons, strength in depth has not been Liverpool’s strongest link. When the going got tough in the past, there were very few options on the bench as so much trust and energy were placed in the starting eleven.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s strengths come mostly from an attacking point of view, with his ability to pick out through balls and key passes being a very strong point to his game. He also likes to take on players and shoot from range, which reflects in his well-known style of play. There are areas such as aerial duels and defensive duties which sits the “heavy metal” way of playing that manager Jurgen Klopp likes to implement, and the German coach appears to be the perfect mentor for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s player development and progression.
Jurgen Klopp will be wanting to improve his ability to drive into the box and score more from midfield. Having players around him like Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum will give Oxlade-Chamberlain the creative freedom to venture forward and to get some shots off.
With the Englishman only averaging 1.2 shots per game in his first season at Anfield, there is more work to be done until he can be called a world class midfielder. He has 18 goals and 25 assists throughout his entire career and these statistics will be something that he will be wanting to achieve during one season, whether he can do that remains to be seen.
The collective high pressing and defending have become symbolic during Klopp’s time at Anfield. The aggression channeled through every outfield player to win back possession and to work hard for the shirt has been a progressive tactic since the German joined the club back in 2015, and statistics would suggest that Oxlade-Chamberlain is not ready for a long-term role in Liverpool’s starting eleven. “The Ox” only averaged 1 tackle per game in the 2017/18 season, as well as 0.6 interceptions and 0.2 clearances, which is something that will have to improve.
Despite the links with the creative midfielder Nabil Fekir from Lyon ramping up after unsuccessfully bringing him to Anfield last summer, it appears that offering “The Ox” an extension to his current shows that the former Borussia Dortmund is continuing to show faith in his current crop of players, and is determined to prove to the Liverpool board that bringing in the 25-year-old to the club was the right move and could indeed deter any interest in the Frenchman.
After such a long stint on the sidelines, it feels like a breath of fresh air that a player of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlains quality will return to the fold, effectively like a new signing entirely, and with Adam Lallana also being linked with a move away from Anfield, it could be another step up the pecking order and a chance for more first-team football next season. Social media would suggest he worked very hard to get himself fit to feature at the end of last season, but whether his fitness will be an eternal irritation and a constant reminder of his physical limits remains to be seen.