Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain enjoyed an injury-free run for Liverpool throughout 2021/22 but that was not reflected in his appearance tally, in what is expected to be his final campaign.
Liverpool’s No. 15 has endured a torrid run with injuries in years gone by, keeping him out of Jurgen Klopp‘s reach and seeing the team evolve around him.
At 28, Oxlade-Chamberlain has plenty left to give and even though he was readily available for the Reds throughout the season, game time proved hard to come by in either midfield or attack.
You can only imagine the frustration at being fit and available but having world-class options ahead in the pecking order in what was a remarkable season across all four competitions for the Reds.
And it is likely to represent his final campaign with the club after five years at Anfield.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 2021/22
Started: 17 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 12
Unused sub: 20
Overall Season Rating: 6
After sustaining a knee injury in the summer of 2020 that disrupted the start of that season and ultimately led to a disjointed campaign, Oxlade-Chamberlain had no such issue prior to 2021/22.
The Englishman featured in five of the pre-season friendlies, the join-most of any player, to inject optimism for what he could offer Klopp and co. throughout the year.
But Oxlade-Chamberlain spent the first half of the summer learning the ropes as a striker, deployed in the No. 9 role and thought to be an option to cover Roberto Firmino.
“You could see in the first few minutes, that’s an option, definitely,” Klopp said of Ox in the position during the pre-season. “We will see how that goes on.”
It didn’t last too long as the summer closed with the 28-year-old shifting back into his favoured midfield position, showing off his fitness and offering plenty of promise.
It did not materialise with appearances from the off in the Premier League, with one start (Norwich) and one substitute outing (Leeds) in the first seven games.
But from October to mid-January, Oxlade-Chamberlain featured 21 times in all competitions for a total of 1,128 minutes – that accounted for 73.9 percent of his season total (1,526).
His time was largely spent in midfield but sprinkled with ventures onto the right-wing and centre-forward, leading to goals in back-to-back league games against Brentford and Crystal Palace.
It was his performance against Leicester in the League Cup quarter-final though that was his standout performance, taking charge as one of a handful of senior players in an otherwise mishmash side.
Ox took responsibility and drove his team forward, showing the intent to get back into the contest after Jamie Vardy scored two early quickfire goals.
His strike was his first goal of the season and only the second of 2021, and it was a timely one that helped Liverpool get back on track and ultimately take the match to penalties.
He finished his with aplomb in sudden death and it sent the Reds on course to lift the trophy come February, which Oxlade-Chamberlain would watch from the substitutes bench.
AFCON influence fades
The 28-year-old found himself as a key option for Klopp during the Africa Cup of Nations, which saw Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita all leave for up to six weeks.
Liverpool were not with a relentless fixture schedule at that stage, but Oxlade-Chamberlain chipped in with two important goals and showed he still had a contribution to make.
But despite his efforts and influence, after starting against Norwich in the league in mid-February, he would make just two more appearances – in the FA Cup against the Canaries and Nottingham Forest.
The latter saw him substituted after 64 minutes and his disgruntled demeanour leaving the pitch spoke volumes in what looks to be his final Liverpool appearance.
Oxlade-Chamberlain would not be seen in the Champions League after the group stages, named only on the bench.
He also was omitted from the Premier League matchday squad in eight of the last 13 games, and was not in the team for the FA Cup semi-final or final.
It was a significant drop out of contention after his brightest patch of the season, laid bare when a rotated side took to St Mary’s after the FA Cup triumph and he failed to come off the bench.
Klopp would later say “I hate myself for not bringing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on” against Southampton, opting for James Milner, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson instead.
It ensured there would be no swansong with his Liverpool career now expected to come to a close this summer.
A new adventure
With a full 90 minutes coming his way only five times and all but dropping out of Klopp’s mind at the business end of the season, a new start looks best for both parties.
Oxlade-Chamberlain only had one year remaining on his current contract and Liverpool are not to stand in his way of a new start after five years at the club.
West Ham is reportedly an interested suitor and you feel that would be a good match for the Englishman, who needs a run of games to build up momentum and find consistent form.
He’s put his injury woes behind him but while he was absent Liverpool moved beyond what he could offer the team, and he just was not able to force himself back into the XI.
A popular and much-loved figure but he is deserving of a fresh start and a chance to become an integral member of a team.
Best moment: Helping drag Liverpool back into the League Cup contest against Leicester with a goal and a converted penalty, helped make the cup triumph possible.
Worst moment: The night at Nottingham Forest, his reaction to being substituted just after the hour spoke volumes.
Role next season: Finding his place at a new club, hopefully reinvigorating his career.