Name: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Current Club: Arsenal
Position: Winger/ Central Midfielder
Height: 5’11” (180cm)
Jürgen Klopp has been blighted by injury throughout the 16/17 Premier League season that helped to temporarily derail what looked like one of the best sides in the league. Questions have been raised over the strength in depth of his squad with Klopp himself seemingly unwilling to use substitutes in games, suggesting he may not trust what he has in reserve.
Sadio Mane’s absence as he reported to African Cup of Nations duty for Senegal & Philippe Coutinho cruelly picking up a malleolar injury the festive period proved to be a disastrous time for Liverpool, as the reds slumped from 1st in the league to 5th.
The selection issue wasn’t not exclusive to the forward-line either. At times the Liverpool midfield had looked like a well-oiled machine, with an early combination of the dynamic Georginio Wijnaldum and the energetically creative Adam Lallana playing just ahead of pass-master Jordan Henderson anchoring the trio looking unbeatable at times. Emre Can and Lucas Leiva have deputised in recent weeks comfortably but have often looked uncomfortable in the original roles played by the terrific trio previously mentioned. Long-term injuries to Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson have severely damaged the Red’s form.
With a Champions League campaign now seemingly quite likely, it is undoubtable that the current Liverpool squad would be incapable of maintaining a competitive attitude to all competitions next season without additions. Absences haven’t been the only issue as Jürgen Klopp has seemingly been happy to not use substitutions this season despite struggling in games, which suggests he simply doesn’t trust the players he has in back-up, especially in midfield & attack.
One player mentioned who could provide an option for both attacking areas & in midfield is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Arsenal man has been linked to Liverpool fleetingly throughout the last few months with reliable sources claiming Liverpool to be ‘monitoring’ the player, without much likelihood that the player would come anywhere near a move to Anfield.
However, speculation has increased over the potential transfer of the England international move to Merseyside to bolster Jürgen Klopp’s squad.
Born in Portsmouth to father Mark Chamberlain the former Portsmouth & England player, Alex was encouraged to play football from an early age. He joined Southampton at the age of 7 & in true Saints style was given his first-team debut in 2010, at the age of 16. However this was not the Southampton we know today as they were a League One club back then, providing ample challenge for the teenage sensation. Alongside the likes of Adam Lallana & Ricky Lambert, Chamberlain became a mainstay in the side in his second season in the first team often operating on the left side of a four in midfield.
Incredibly he was also an extremely talented rugby player & had a trial at Aviva Premiership club London Irish at the age of 18 but was stopped from attending by Southampton. He finished the season with nine goals in 34 appearances, propelling Southampton to promotion to the Championship & earning himself a spot in the division’s team of the season.
Many top clubs courted the youngster but a multimillion pound move to Arsenal transpired in the summer of 2011. His inaugural season at the Gunners led to him making 28 appearances including 4 in the Champions League, but had to settle for a place from the bench for the majority of those fixtures. Chamberlain had served an apprenticeship in the England youth teams from U18 & was drafted into the England squad to make his debut at just 18 years of age against Norway.
He clearly impressed manager Roy Hodgson as he selected him to represent England at Euro 2012, becoming the second youngest player ever to do so. Chamberlain has since stagnated at Arsenal, getting few opportunities in a packed squad of attacking talent. Alex has failed to ever nail down a starting place in the Arsenal team in his 5-year career at the club, with 20 goals & 29 assists in 188 competitive appearances for the club. Staying on the periphery of England’s National Team & Arsenal has been mainly due to strong competition & an awful injury record, but there is no doubt he clearly has the ability to become a top player.
Style of Play
His blistering pace & exceptionally effective dribbling ability made him an obvious choice as a winger in his early career. However, Arsene Wenger has often used his technical prowess in the centre of midfield to control games & dictate play. When playing as a winger, Chamberlain has averaged 2.8 successful dribbles in the Premier League. To put this into context, this out-does Liverpool’s usual wide men, Sadio Mane with 2.5 per match & Philippe Coutinho with 2.2 per match, which are not exactly poor figures.
With wingers however, the question can often be of the end-product after beating their man, so how does Oxlade-Chamberlain weigh up in this department? When playing on either wing, he has an average of 0.3 assists per game & 1.4 key passes per match. This is in a similar ball park to the excellent Sadio Mane, with 0.2 assists per game & 1.6 key passes but quite incomparable to Philippe Coutinho’s 2.3 key passes per game despite the same level of assists per match. However, with a total of 1 goal in the Premier League when playing as a wide player it’s clear what area of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s output must be improved. It’s unquestionable though that ‘The Ox’ would clearly be a creative & useful option to Liverpool as a winger.
Looking at his play in central midfield, Oxlade Chamberlain has averaged around 60 passes completed per match, with 1.3 key passes but registering no assists. The following table depicts how he compares to Liverpool’s four most prominent midfielders, with all statistics shown per Premier League game.
|Name||Passes Completed||Pass Success %||Key Passes||Assists||Interceptions||Successful Dribbles||Tackles|
It’s clear that Alex likes to get on the ball & dictate play from deep when playing in midfield. In reality, he is more likely to come in & play in one of the two central midfield positions rather than the defensive position we’ve seen Jordan Henderson line up in this season. Without any assists, questions could be raised about his creativity, but acutally with the joint mot key passes & a more successful dribbles from midfield than all of the other Liverpool centre midfielders put together, Chamberlain may be the creative ball carrier Jürgen Klopp is looking for. It’s also good to note that Chamberlain clearly puts in a shift defensively, with an impressive amount of successful tackles & interceptions for a player renowned originally for his attacking ability.
You’d find few Liverpool fans who don’t rate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as a footballer, but since rumours emerged of his transfer, the fee has been the main talking point. English players of Premier League quality have become increasingly more expensive on today’s transfer market, With John Stones fetching close to £50m, Luke Shaw costing over £30m & Liverpool’s own Jordon Ibe costing Bournemouth £15.3m.
Even Chamberlain himself cost Arsenal around £12m as a teenager & the £35m originally thought to be the case has been baulked at by the majority of fans. Unsurprisingly, Melissa Reddy confirmed that Liverpool wouldn’t be likely to pay more than £20m for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has just 13 months left on his contract at Arsenal.
If ‘The Ox’ was purchased for less than £20m you’d hope that most fans would get behind this signing. He is clearly a supremely talented player who has had his fair amount of bad luck with injuries, missing 77 matches in the past 5 seasons on the side-lines. A change of scenery & a fresh start would hopefully kick-start a once promising career into motion again & if anyone can get the best out of a gifted young player it would be Jürgen Klopp. Providing much needed alternatives with our lack of depth in midfield & without doubt on the wing, Chamberlain could be an astute signing for Liverpool Football Club.
Written by Rob Rogers.