Why Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has an important role to play for Liverpool
Background Image Via: Flickr/Ruaraidh Gillies. CC BY 4.0.
They say that problems come in threes. For Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Liverpool, that term rings true. A cruciate ligament injury in April 2018 ruled him out for close to 300 days, while he'd also miss time through fitness problems and a hamstring injury before the 2018/19 season drew to a close. The Ox will be keeping everything crossed - hoping that his time spent on the treatment table is firmly in the rearview mirror.
For Jurgen Klopp, I'd even go one further. It's a necessity that Oxlade-Chamberlain can keep himself in good knick. Liverpool could potentially play nigh-on close to 70 games if they reach the business end of the 7(!) competitions they're involved in over the next nine months. With no senior signings being made, the ex-Arsenal man has an opportunity to earn his place in Anfield folklore; and the 25-year-old will have a role to play from the get-go.
Isn't he behind Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in the pecking order? I hear you cry... Well yes, when everyone is fit, Oxlade-Chamberlain would struggle to break into Liverpool's frightening front three. Right now, though, Mane's still building up his fitness after an Africa Cup of Nations campaign in which he went all the way to the final. With a jam-packed schedule ahead, the ex-Southampton man will likely be eased into things.
Liverpool fans who have been watching closely in pre-season will know about an Oxlade-Chamberlain positional change-up, with the Englishman playing some sublime football from the centre of the park; So-much-so that Georginio Wijnaldum may have no choice but to relinquish his position in the coming weeks when everyone is healthy and feeling good...
To coin a phrase that I actually hate, having Oxlade-Chamberlain back will feel like a new signing. Every team needs that versatility man who can do a job in several positions and with James Milner not getting any younger, Liverpool has already found their latest Swiss Army Knife.
Klopp is a manager whom, like Josep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino, makes his players better. Oxlade-Chamberlain was always regarded as the 'next big thing' during his time at Arsenal. The promise was always there though the proof was seldom in the pudding. With a full pre-season under the belt and a renewed confidence, this term could well be the kickstart that his promising career so desperately needs.
He'll get games, plenty of them too, and perhaps Oxlade-Chamberlain's return played on Klopp's mind as the German refused to be drawn into buying for buyings-sake. Perhaps a permanent switch to the central midfield role is the best thing that could happen for his career as it's going to take something special to beat out Mane, Salah and even both Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri in the attacking roles.
Sure, nobody is expecting Oxlade-Chamberlain to start every single week, but if an injury occurs or a regular starter is struggling for form, The Ox will slot in seamlessly, work hard and do a job for you in practically any spot on the pitch. What's crazy is he may not even start during tonight's Premier League opener against Norwich City, but you can bet your bottom dollar he'll have a part to play over a long, arduous and potentially fruitful 2019/20 campaign for Liverpool.