The problem Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain faces as his Liverpool future seems uncertain

The midfielder arrived at Liverpool in 2017, but after a good start in his first season followed by a terrible injury, the 28-year-old has found himself down the pecking-order at Anfield. With the rumour mill turning, could his days as a Liverpool player be numbered?  

When Arsene Wenger brought Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into the Arsenal first team in 2011, the footballing world was excited to see what would become of yet another young attacking player that the Frenchman had discovered.

One year after making his professional debut at Arsenal, the teenager was selected to be part of Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the now infamous Euro 2012 tournament, and things seemed to be on the up for the promising attacking midfielder.

Fast forward five years and the 24-year-old found himself somewhat out of favour at the London club, injuries and mismanagement during some of Arsenal’s more turbulent years had left the midfielder in limbo at the Gunners.

Alex described himself as a centre-midfielder, even going as far to say he had “Always wanted to be Steven Gerrard” after winning the FA Cup in 2015.

Despite this, he often found himself out of position, regularly being played on the wing rather than his preferred central role, but Jurgen Klopp’s energetic Liverpool side gave Alex the opportunity he was looking for, and in 2017, The Reds paid £35 million to acquire his services.

Oxlade-Chamberlain started somewhat slowly at Liverpool in his first season as he again struggled to become a mainstay in the midfield, but by January 2018, Philippe Coutinho was out of the door to Barcelona, and there was a space to be filled in Jurgen Klopp’s uber-attacking side.

It was during this time that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain showed the most promise as a footballer since his teenage years in London. Screamers vs Manchester City in both the Premier League and Champions League had fans excited to see what the future held for the midfielder who was still just 24-year-old, and his good form continued until Liverpool faced Roma in the semi-final of the Champions League, where Alex picked up a knee injury that left him sidelined for months.

The exhilarating ‘heavy-metal football’ of Liverpool came to an end at the end of the 17/18 season, as despite scoring 135 goals in all competitions, the club ended the season trophyless, and learned their lesson about needing to outscore every opponent every week.

A change of formation and style of play arrived at the beginning of the 18/19 season, with more focus on defensive stability and clinical finishing from the iconic ‘front 3’ rather than erratic pressing and 4-3 victories. As we all remember, this new style turned out to be highly successful.

Liverpool fans watched on in awe as Klopp’s men cut down all that came before them as they were crowned Champions of Europe in June 2019, but this new-found success must have been somewhat bittersweet for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

He was thriving in the previous system the year before, as he was given the freedom to get forward at several opportunities throughout each game, with his main defensive responsibilities being a part of the high press. Henderson and Wijnaldum were relied on to do more of the ‘dirty’ midfield work, and Alex was able to contribute further up the pitch, but those days were over.

Klopp’s immediate purchase of Fabinho after the 2018 Champions League final gave Liverpool the holding midfielder they desperately needed, and left just 2 spots vacant in his 4-3-3 formation. Creativity in midfield also wasn’t a number one priority for the coach at this time either, as Liverpool relied on their wingbacks to contribute a huge amount of assists for Salah, Mane, and Firmino.

Instead, Jurgen opted for workrate and reliability in his robust midfield, with Henderson and Wijnaldum being practically guaranteed to start when they were fit, and James Milner available when they weren’t.

The team that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returned to after his injury wasn’t the same one he had left the year before. The system was new, the tactics were alien, and the role of the ideal Liverpool midfielder had completely transformed. Alex was, from this point on, a fringe player, who regularly found his creative spark being utilised from the wings in late substitutions, which was the exact role he had wished to avoid when he left Arsenal 2 years earlier.

Now, in 2021, the 28-year-old should be in his prime years as a central midfielder, but if anything, he looks further away from the starting 11 than ever.

Teenagers Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott have started more games than him so far this season, Milner looks as young and reliable as ever, and despite Gini Wijnaldum’s departure, Fabinho and Henderson remain as mainstays in Klopp’s midfield, with Thiago and Naby Keita both being called on when fit.

It’s not unfair to suggest that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is probably at the bottom of Jurgen Klopp’s list of midfielders. He is incapable of filling in for Fabinho unlike Henderson, Thiago, and Milner, and lacks the spark and creativity of a player like Elliott or Naby Keita.