The crossroad facing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in defining fourth season at Liverpool

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How would you rate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain‘s three seasons at Liverpool? Ask a handful of those around Anfield and you’d get a staggering variety of responses.

The 26-year-old goes into his fourth season at Anfield as a champion of England, Europe and the world.

It’s been successful in terms of what he has been able to achieve during his time in the northwest so far.

He’s finally playing in his preferred midfield role after years of frustration at Arsenal, at a club where he earned the unflattering tag of Mr. Versatile – something he was eager to leave behind as he left north London.

But Oxlade-Chamberlain could now be facing a defining campaign on Merseyside.

 

The Early Years

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 16, 2017: Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in action during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool and Burnley at Anfield. (Pic by Peter Powell/Propaganda)

The signing of Oxlade-Chamberlain came at a time which felt like the last transition transfer window under Jurgen Klopp.

At the time, Liverpool were still shopping in the second-hand market, trying to turn nearly players into world beaters and creating a unified system that required a specific cog in all 11 positions.

Players had seen what Klopp had done during his first full season at Liverpool and many wanted to be part of his ‘heavy-metal football’.

The club had just secured Champions League football back at Anfield for the first time in three years and while Liverpool were not at the top yet, their trajectory was only going in one direction.

Liverpool’s 2017 summer window in hindsight looks like shrewd business, a window that epitomises the work Michael Edwards and team have done during Klopp’s tenure.

The noticeable incomings that summer included Andy Robertson, Mo Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita (who would join in July 2018).

Those signings would go on to become integral foundations to the success that Klopp has delivered so far.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 14, 2018: Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

But the former Arsenal man had a rough ride at Anfield, he followed the blueprint and took his time to settle at Anfield.

In and, mostly, out of the team prior to Christmas, there was no honeymoon period.

He finally announced his arrival at Anfield in January 2018, as Liverpool toppled Pep Guardiola’s soon-to-be centurions in a 4-3 thriller. With a goal and an assist to his name, he kick-started his season from then on.

He never looked back as he had Liverpool fans purring over his performances for the remainder of the season.

His form helped Liverpool embark on spontaneous European run, as they found themselves two games away from the club’s first Champions League final in over a decade.

It wasn’t to be on a personal note, though, as he ruptured his ACL during the semi-final first leg against Roma.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, April 24, 2018: Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is carried off injured during the UEFA Champions League Semi-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and AS Roma at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

At the time of his injury, Oxlade-Chamberlain was probably playing the best football of his career. But after a year on the sidelines, he has since found it hard to cement a regular place in Klopp’s favoured XI.

Prior to the coronavirus lockdown, the 26-year-old had benefited from the heavily congested fixture list.

His goal at West Ham in late January started a really strong couple of months on a personal note, having featured in the following seven successive games.

He went into lockdown as one of Liverpool’s strongest performers, only for his momentum to be halted by the three-month stoppage.

 

Liverpool’s New Dawn

Over the last couple of years as Liverpool have slowly regained their pulling power under the guidance of Germany’s greatest export, they now firmly have their seat secured at Europe’s top table and have found regular links with some of the best players in the game as the new normal.

Thiago has been a name that has failed to go away over the summer months.

With each passing day the deal seems more likely, however, regardless of whether it is sanctioned by the Anfield hierarchy, the proposed move has thrown some questions in the direction of Liverpool’s No. 15.

Regarded as one of the best central midfielders in the modern game, Thiago doesn’t need an introduction, his footballing CV speaks for itself.

He is player hugely admired by both Klopp and Guardiola, so much so the latter went back and signed him from Barcelona during his first transfer window in charge of Bayern Munich in 2013.

Signed for just over £25 million in 2013, he has won everything up for grabs at club level and at the age of 29, it would make sense for the Spaniard to thrust himself into a new challenge.

 

A Midfield Reshape?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 22, 2020: Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (C) celebrates scoring his side's fifth goal, to make the score 5-3, with team-mate Curtis Jones during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A lot of the talk surrounding the signing of the ex-Barcelona man has been dependent on the future of Gini Wijnaldum, with the possibility of it being a one-in, one-out system with midfielders this summer at Anfield.

Whilst Wijnaldum may seem the most likely to be sacrificed for Thiago, it’s Oxlade-Chamberlain who could be the victim of the deal in the long run.

Thiago has been hailed as another player who can link the midfield to attack but acts in a slightly deeper role than the one we see Oxlade-Chamberlain operate in, and he would no doubt leapfrog him in the pecking order.

With Wijnaldum turning 30 in November and with his current deal expiring next June, it would make sense for him to be the immediate outgoing if Thiago was to move to Merseyside.

And with the resurgence of Naby Keita’s form since ‘Project Restart’, next season looks like it could be Fabinho, Henderson and the Guinean lining up alongside one another in those highly sought-after midfield spots.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 19, 2020: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp shakes hands with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as he is substituted during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Having made his 87th appearance in the red shirt on the final day of the 2019/2020 campaign, Oxlade Chamberlain’s numbers don’t tell the story of his game entirely, with 23 goal contributions (10 goals, 13 assists).

He offers a lot more than the stats would have you believe, a dynamic midfielder who has been plagued with injuries wherever he has been, and this Liverpool side might be growing at a faster rate than he is able to keep up with.

In terms of important stages in careers, Oxlade-Chamberlain is coming up to a crossroad in the next few windows.

As he approaches his 27th birthday later this month, he will have a firm eye on next summer’s postponed European Championship, as he’s yet to represent at a tournament since Euro 2012.

The next two years will give him a huge chance to make up for some lost time on the international stage.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 2, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp prepares to bring on substitutes Divock Origi (L) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (C) during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With the fixtures already piling up for the 2020/2021 season, Klopp will need as many bodies as possible.

But ahead of the World Cup in December 2022, Oxlade-Chamberlain could find himself looking away from Anfield in order to find regular game time.

The upcoming season will certainly be a defining season for the Englishman.

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