Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is reportedly considering a shock return to Arsenal after becoming frustrated with the lack of opportunities at Liverpool.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s Anfield career has been bittersweet. Many would consider a Premier League title, the Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup a success but the England international has failed to cement his place under Jurgen Klopp in recent seasons.
The 28-year-old midfielder – who is believed to earn £125,000 per week on a contract running until 2023 – thrived in his first season after his £35million move from Arsenal in 2017, both on the wing and in the engine room.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could call it quits on his Liverpool career after a lack of game time – he is pictured in training this week while most of his team-mates are away on international duty
But a cruel ACL injury in a Champions League semi-final stunted his progress, forcing him to miss 316 days of Reds action – and he hasn’t reached the same dizzying heights since.
In fact, every time he looked to be hitting his peak another injury blow has come along to knock him back down again.
Oxlade-Chamberlain appeared to be enjoying a slight renaissance in a comeback from his ACL injury, making a total of 43 appearances across all competitions for the Reds during their victorious Premier League campaign in 2019-20.
First-team starts have become few and far between for Oxlade-Chamberlain in recent years
The Englishman suffered a major setback in 2018 after picking up an ACL injury against Roma
Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, shutting down the season for a spell and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s chances.
On the third day of preparations for the 2020-21 campaign in Austria, he went down during a training session with yet another knee injury and was ruled out until December.
He made just 17 appearances last season with only two coming in starts and he never really seemed to get going again following his latest spell on the sidelines.
Injuries look to have finally caught up with the midfielder, who now seems to lack the physicality needed to break into a Klopp-style side.
The 28-year-old is reportedly frustrated at his lack of chances under Jurgen Klopp (centre)
Despite staying fit through a full pre-season this year, Oxlade-Chamberlain has made just two appearances, with the Reds boss favouring the intensity of youngsters Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones.
Captain Jordan Henderson and Fabinho are locked and loaded automatic picks in Liverpool’s midfield and so Klopp’s favoured 4-3-3 formation leaves just one coveted spot for Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Elliott, Naby Keita and Thiago Alcantara to contend for.
At the start of the season, Elliott looked to have that final spot well within his grasp after the 18-year-old’s unexpected impact.
The Liverpool boss favoured youngster Harvey Elliott (right) in midfield at the start of the term
The 18-year-old secured his spot in the Reds’ midfielder before suffering a horror ankle injury
But a serious ankle injury sustained against Leeds has curtailed the youngster’s ambitions. Yet one player’s agony is another player’s opportunity – just not for Oxlade-Chamberlain it seems.
Instead, it is Jones who has grasped at the opportunity Elliott’s misfortune has left behind. The 20-year-old had to wait patiently in the wings and bide his time earlier in the season before the chance to fill the void left by Elliott arose.
Now, he has seen his bid for more playing time come to fruition – he has started four games and is riding a wave of momentum once again as the local lad full of hope and promise.
20-year-old Curtis Jones scored a belting Premier League goal against Brentford last month
Jones (left) has seized the chance to break into the team, providing assists against Porto
And, while Jones’s impressive displays, featuring a wonder strike against Brentford and an assist-loaded performance at Porto, have benefitted Liverpool, they have done nothing to further Oxlade-Chamberlain’s case.
He had been a great creative asset during his debut campaign for the Reds, generating seven assists in the Premier League and creating 34 chances.
But as his game time decreased, naturally so did his output – and dramatically so.
With a grand total of 19 minutes played over two appearances in the league in the 2018-19 season, he didn’t record a single assist.
However, he returned to full fitness as the Reds rampaged to the title in 2019-20 and we saw a glimpse of the attacking weapon he had been before the ACL injury.
In 30 league appearances, he found the back of the net four times, provided an assist and created 17 chances.
Yet, as he missed yet another chunk of Liverpool’s campaign last season, his attacking contributions dropped once again.
It is clear we never fully got a taste of what Oxlade-Chamberlain could truly achieve under Klopp and the route back into midfield now seems to be closed.
However, he could have has an opportunity to break back into the team through his old wing-back position from his Arsenal days.
While Trent Alexander-Arnold is indisputably Liverpool’s No 1 choice at right back, there is always a need for a quality back-up. Although central midfield is admittedly his preferred position, Oxlade-Chamberlain needs to grasp at any lifeline he’s handed to rejuvenate his Liverpool career.
The Englishman played wing-back under Arsene Wenger, a role that bears strong similarities to the way Klopp deploys his full backs.
Oxlade-Chamberlain played at wing-back under former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger (right)
The midfielder could be reunited with former team-mate Mikel Arteta (left) at the Emirates
The Southampton academy graduate possesses strength, pace, an ability to cross the ball and skilful dribbling – all constituents of an excellent full back, which could see him easily slip into the position.
Even Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher endorsed the potential position change on Twitter back in June.
The former defender tweeted: ‘Could the Ox not play there?
‘Got the pace & engine, he’ll be fine on the ball & used to being in crossing areas after spending so long there as a winger.’
But even that route has been closed off to Oxlade-Chamberlain as Klopp has chosen veteran and previous left back stand-in James Milner ahead of him in Alexander-Arnold’s absence due to a groin injury.
It is a bitter chapter of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s career, which looked to be entering it’s second wave upon his arrival at Anfield. Instead he is left as a shadow of his former self.
Now, with playing time running thin, he is reportedly seeking a fresh challenge.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is weighing up bringing his injury-hit Reds career to an end and reuniting with his former team-mate Mikel Arteta at the Emirates Stadium, according to The Sun.
Arsenal are short in midfield numbers after Granit Xhaka was ruled out for three months
The Ox certainly has the ability to shine again – as he shows here – but can he stay fit?
A return to the Emirates could be just the move he needs to resurrect his stuttering career in north London given the Gunners’ issues in midfield.
The former Arsenal man would not suffer the same competitiveness for a spot in Arteta’s side as he does under Klopp.
Granit Xhaka was ruled out for three months in September following a knee injury suffered in the north London derby, while Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny are set to partake in the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
That leaves just summer signing Albert Sambi Lokonga, 21, and utility player Ainsley Maitland-Niles as central midfield options for Arteta, which leaves a spot wide open for Oxlade-Chamberlain to slip into.
The Ox still has plenty of years left in the tank, should he stay injury free. With no chance to shine in a loaded Liverpool squad, that time could be spent salvaging his career back among old friends.