Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain faces a near-impossible task given Liverpool already have his replacement. The England midfielder faces the exit door.
The Independent claims there will be a summer ‘clear-out’ at Liverpool. That makes things particularly difficult for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, seeing as his replacement is already there.
For a few years, he’s been the direct, ball-runner from midfield. Oxlade-Chamberlain thrived at it in his first season, capable of picking the ball up and driving Liverpool forward.
No other option at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal could do that. Oxlade-Chamberlain had his niche in the side and used it effectively.
Then the injuries kicked in.
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He missed near-enough an entire season to injury. It saw slow progress last season but Oxlade-Chamberlain missed the first few months of this campaign, too.
And by the time he was back, Curtis Jones had developed into a first-team calibre player. That’s a real problem.
Jones does a lot of things Oxlade-Chamberlain does. As we outlined here, he’s a truly elite ball-carrier. The Scouser picks the ball up in midfield and naturally moves it forward, driving into the final third and making things happen.
Suddenly, Oxlade-Chamberlain has lost his speciality in the midfield. Jones does it, too, which creates another problem that’s near-impossible to overcome – Jones is seven years younger.
If you have to pick one of these players for long-term investment, you pick Jones. It makes no sense to do anything else.
But as squad players – neither are in the first XI right now – Jones’s potential becomes even more tantalising. After all, Liverpool don’t need to worry about him being a star right now as they have the first-team players for that.
So for a squad role, you pick Jones every time. He’ll get better, while still delivering what Liverpool need from a rotation option.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, though, will remain at his level as he turns 28.
The only way around this is for Oxlade-Chamberlain to prove his qualities are so valuable that Liverpool need both in the squad. To prove that he’s so much better than Jones that ‘potential’ won’t make up the difference.
But with the level Jones is playing at, that seems unlikely. Especially with the level Oxlade-Chamberlain is playing at.
With talk of the exit door this summer, Oxlade-Chamberlain will struggle to avoid it – they’ve already got his replacement.