Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain saw his path to a Liverpool future on Monday evening. The 27-year-old faces a fight.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has only started two games this season. The first was a 1-0 away defeat at Southampton, the second a 1-0 home defeat to Burnley.
Neither, then, worked out particularly well. Now, the biggest reason for the limited appearances is a long-term injury. Oxlade-Chamberlain didn’t play at all until December 19th.
But since then, competition has undoubtedly been the biggest issue. Even with both Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in defence, the midfield chances weren’t there.
Gini Wijnaldum is virtually ever-present, after all, while Thiago is now a regular starter. Then there’s Curtis Jones, who has enjoyed a breakthrough this season.
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Naby Keita and James Milner are around, too, and getting games.
It’s hard to see, then, how Oxlade-Chamberlain as a future in the Liverpool midfield. His role as the dynamic, direct attacking midfielder is under threat, given Jones’s development.
The competition is so fierce that he rarely gets to show what he can do. And someone like Jones is only getting better, while Thiago is only getting more integrated.
Fortunately, Jurgen Klopp showed him the one real path left.
Oxlade-Chamberlain came on as a False 9 against Wolves on Monday, replacing Diogo Jota. He played well, too.
In just eight minutes, the 27-year-old pressed five times, completed two out of two dribbles, carried the ball nine times, with two ‘progressive carries’ (bringing the ball forward at least five yards).
He also completed two progressive passes – passes that move Liverpool forward at least ten yards. That matches both Jota and Sadio Mane, who each played at least 4 times as many minutes.
This was promising, then. Oxlade-Chamberlain may find opportunities in Liverpool’s forward line – or at least, more than in midfield.
Few forwards are performing well, after all. Oxlade-Chamberlain could join that group as a backup player, able to play in all three roles.
It would make him a better option than Divock Origi, arguably. Maybe above Xherdan Shaqiri, too.
We think there are more games there and far weaker competition. So if Oxlade-Chamberlain is to have a Liverpool future, it’s likely up top.
He’s got the pace and energy to perform there – something few options have. This, for us, is Oxlade-Chamberlain’s last chance to earn a decent future with Liverpool.
But with a huge transfer window looming, he doesn’t have much time to impress. Liverpool do want to sign an attacker, according to Goal.
The pressure is firmly on.