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Some thought that Arsenal might bounce back from their defeat to Stoke and put in a performance against Liverpool. How wrong they were. After yet another disgraceful performance, a transfer meltdown has ensued.
It can surprise nobody that Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is choosing to leave Arsenal. His playing time has been hampered by injuries, his development stalled by mismanagement, his expectations messed with and his value to the club taken for granted until it was too late. Not to mention, he might actually want to win the Premier League or Champions League at some point, which by now he has realized will not happen under Arsene Wenger.
Can Liverpool, though, offer “the Ox” the starting central midfield role that he wants? For years, and despite rarely deploying him there, Arsene Wenger said the player would end up a central midfielder. The statements must have gotten through, however, because in the last couple of years the player himself has taken any opportunity to reinforce his desire to play in the middle. See below his reaction after being complimented for his performance as a wing-back after winning last season’s FA Cup final.
But does he really have the attributes to be a central player in Klopp’s midfield? And do Liverpool really need him in that position?
He is, at his best, a runner. A dangerous dribbler who can deliver an excellent cross from time to time (his crossing has developed markedly in the last year or so). His displays in the middle for Arsenal, though, have shown his decision-making and positioning to be questionable, his passing inconsistent and his defensive nouse and tackling ability to be virtually non-existant. Whether he likes it or not, his attributes make him better suited to life on the flanks, which in this case means cover for Mane and Salah.
There’s the caveat, though, that he hasn’t been coached properly in years. It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise were Klopp and his staff able to build on Oxlade-Chamberlain’s obvious physical attributes and develop him into a useful central midfielder.
Even then, can he really be assured a starting place? If Coutinho departs, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Can, Lallana, Grujic and Milner are already competing for three spots, and in a year’s time one of the game’s best young central midfielders will arrive in the form of Naby Keita. Ox isn’t going to play Henderson’s defensive role, and there’s no argument that he should or would start over Wijnaldum or Can who are specialists in their position.
Liverpool need a squad, of course, and none of this is to say that Ox won’t get games, but whether he can develop quickly and convincingly enough to truly warrant a starting place in this Liverpool team is entirely up for debate.
I hope it works out. When on form he’s truly exciting. He’s also a likable chap, an honest player with a good attitude and enough sense not to let his career get Walcotted. Best of luck to him.