Some players go through their football careers with a heavy, heavy dose of bad luck and misfortune. No matter how talented they are of their potential threshold of becoming a world beater. A footballer’s career is often brutal.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of these stars. The England international has taken on the toughest hands and had to walk the less traveled path. Now, however, he is very much in the last chance saloon.
At a club like Liverpool – this week they are celebrating a one-year anniversary since they finally ended a 30-year wait to be crowned champions of England – things are moving fast.
A huge season lies ahead for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who wants a regular starting spot
The Reds have fiery ambitions to get back on top of the pile and compete for domestic and European honours. For this, they have to have each senior squad member firing on all cylinders, and those who can’t are simply left behind.
With his fitness back at optimum level, Oxlade-Chamberlain offers his final roll of the dice to convince boss Jurgen Klopp that he can become a regular at Anfield and play a key role in helping his side recover from the scorching defeat of last year. , injury-ravaged campaign.
Sports post takes a look at the tasks the 27-year-old has to face and how to slip back into the red machine.
An opportunity presents itself
It’s no secret that Liverpool have an opening in midfield this season.
Georginio Wijnaldum’s departure was seen as quite cold by many parts of the fan base after the Liverpool hierarchy chose not to hand out a long-term deal to a player who was not in his twenties anymore.
For the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita, the Dutchman’s exit has provided a glimmer of hope – or at least a ticket to the last chance saloon.
Oxlade-Chamberlain made the decision to leave Arsenal for Liverpool in August 2017 to capture his favorite position at the heart of midfield.
It’s fair to say he came painfully close towards the end of his first campaign in red, becoming a fixture in Klopp’s midfield three.
Both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita have a chance now that Gini Wijnaldum has left the club
However, a brutal knee injury sustained against Roma in the Champions League semi-final paid off in the most brutal way.
The Englishman probably would have been the starter in the European final that was to follow, but instead he stumbled through the Olympic stadium in Kiev on crunches.
Now, with a spot up for grabs in midfield, Oxlade-Chamberlain will be mouth watering.
The dynamic star is not someone who likes to sit on the couch and collect a hefty pay package every week. He wants to be involved anyway, and will have been saddened by how last season went.
Multiple nagging injuries just kept biting, and the opportunity to build up a little momentum was simply never there.
As a result, Oxlade-Chamberlain watched from the treatment room or the couch for most of the season and missed out on a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2020.
It was a painful one to take. Now, however, the comeback could happen. Liverpool sources have made it clear that there will be no money to be thrown this summer and that the squad will largely remain as it is.
People like Yves Bissouma and Florian Neuhaus have been linked, although concrete interest has not materialized. Klopp keeps a close eye on ‘the Ox’ during training.
After impressing with a brief cameo against Burnley at the end of last season, when he cut through the defense and made a sublime finish in the bottom corner, Oxlade-Chamberlain reminded fans why he could be so important to Liverpool.
It therefore came as no surprise to see the player tested in more advanced positions as Liverpool kicked off their season preparation in Austria this week.
The latest campaign saw a surprising drying up of goals from the front line, and Klopp just couldn’t rely on Divock Origi being consistent enough to deliver from the bench.
This is where Oxlade-Chamberlain comes in. His pace and precise control, combined with agile footwork, means Liverpool have a player on their hands who can be molded into a variety of roles.
For a manager like Klopp, this is music to the ears.
Against Wacker Innsbruck, Oxlade-Chamberlain flourished in an unknown false nine position
When Liverpool faced Wacker Innsbruck and Stuttgart, it was interesting to see Klopp put both Oxlade-Chamberlain and returning youngster Harvey Elliott in new positions.
The former filled in for Roberto Firmino in the usual ‘false nine’ position, while the latter pushed in the three in midfield. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Elliott could then switch during the match, each dipping their toes into different roles.
Many Liverpool fans immediately concluded that this was a harbinger of things to come, with both players helping to close the gaps in the XI as the club’s budget was tightened this summer.
For Oxlade-Chamberlain, the false nine roll could be a rebirth, while also taking some of the pressure off Firmino. The Brazilian looked jaded last season and came under criticism for his alleged waning influence.
However, there is another role that ‘the Ox’ could play.
And this happens to be on the flanks, in a much deeper and unknown position.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has previous experience as a fullback, playing for Arsenal there, but never spoke of the position with enthusiasm.
At Liverpool, however, the game plan requires marauding defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to spend almost more time in opposition third than their own.
Replacing Trent Alexander-Arnold on the wing would give Liverpool more options
It’s a very disciplined style, leaving much of the one-on-one defense to the big centre-backs or deep-set midfielder Fabinho.
It is this system that means Oxlade-Chamberlain could be a contender, especially with Liverpool poised to approve the sale of reserve right-back Neco Williams.
Replacing Alexander-Arnold would not only guarantee more playing time, but also give Klopp the opportunity to adapt his system with the arrival of Oxlade-Chamberlain.
While Alexander-Arnold is known for bombing the wings and putting in inch-perfect crosses, having Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wing would introduce the ability to have him cut inwards into the central areas of midfield in the attack.
Liverpool could then shuffle their staff and allow players like captain Jordan Henderson or Fabinho to move temporarily to the bigger areas to support an advancing Ox.
Whether this would work remains to be seen, but Liverpool and their manager will be happy with the options.
Oxlade-Chamberlain excels at moving forward and this is what Klopp demands from his fullbacks
Ultimately, the most likely scenario is that Oxlade-Chamberlain will accept a compromise and come to terms with the fact that he will likely perform a variety of duties and requirements in exchange for regular minutes on the field.
By making himself available in myriad capacities, the chances of actually starting matches rather than simply getting off the couch are exponentially greater.
The 27-year-old is unlikely to achieve the central midfield position he so desperately craves unless he performs at a level that simply makes him unbeatable.
That said, Klopp is still working with a system that requires a lot of chopping and switching, to match a specific opponent on match day.
The 27-year-old grinds in the preseason and is finally injury free after a number of injuries
However, one thing is certain, Oxlade-Chamberlain will finally enter a Liverpool campaign with a full preseason under his belt and game-packed fitness.
The former Arsenal man is also soon to become a father, which will likely give even more motivation on the pitch to return to his peak and continue building a football legacy for his little one to learn about later.
In short, Klopp needs more versatility this season than ever before, and Oxlade-Chamberlain is a willing contender.
With a good dose of luck and a good dose of solid effort, a Liverpool career on the rocks could probably be about to be saved.