The joke doing rounds among Liverpool fans since transfer deadline day is that once a player has played for Southampton, he is definitely destined to play for the Reds. This joke is regarding, what was then a strong possibility that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wanted to join Liverpool. This has now become a fact. Earlier Thursday, Oxlade-Chamberlain joined the Reds after completing a medical at St. James’ Park, where he is on international duty.
Unlike the Naby Keita chase, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s transfer has been simmering for quite some time. In fact, the first connections were made in the January transfer window, earlier this year. After that, throughout the summer window, there have been murmurs about the possibility of the 24-year old England international joining Liverpool. The player and the club completed the deal after Oxlade-Chamberlain had rejected Chelsea earlier in the week, despite the Blues having agreed terms with Arsenal. One of the possible reason cited for this rejection was that he wanted to play in midfield but was concerned that Conte might play him as a wing-back. This means that he expects to play in the midfield under Klopp.
There is no harm in hoping for a midfield berth, but Klopp might have slightly different plans for the dynamic midfielder. In this piece, we take a look at some of the key strengths that Klopp might have seen in Oxlade-Chamberlain, and that will help him succeed at Liverpool.
Klopp, who admitted that he had been impressed by the Englishman ever since he saw him play against his Dortmund side in 2014, said, “I hear a lot of talk about positions but let’s talk about the player; he is someone with really good abilities who always gives everything for his team. A player that is positive and willing to take risks to try and make positive things happen.”. That does not tell us if he plans to play his latest signing in midfield or not, but it does talk about the qualities he admires.
In the same interview, Klopp narrated his first impressions of Oxlade-Chamberlain. The German manager recalled his pace, skills and willingness to track back to stop Mkhitaryan from taking a shot. Indeed, he is a fairly active presser and tackler. As per Wyscout, he puts in 5.77 defensive tackles per 90 minutes. But he needs to improve his tackle quality as he does not win the ball in almost 80% of his duels. He is also extremely active as an interceptor – and this role is key in the Reds’ midfield – as he puts in 4.5 interceptions per 90 minutes. He also gets involved in 2.4 one-on-one defending events per 90 minutes but is successful in only 17% of those. These stats do not represent a great defensive player, but rather they highlight the tenacious nature of the player.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is not a creative midfielder like Philippe Coutinho but is rather more in the Henderson mould. He puts in 35 passes per game, with an average success rate of 90%. More than 50% percent of his passes are directed forward – in fact, 6% of his passes reach the opponents’ penalty area with a success rate of 82%. His long passes are also fairly accurate as he puts in 2.33 of them per 90 minutes with an 88.3% accuracy. He also puts in 7.2 dribbles – mostly against opponents’ midfielders and wingers- per 90 minutes, with a 76% accuracy.
Chance Creation and Attack Potential
Oxlade-Chamberlain might not possess as many creative stats as Coutinho, but he creates several scoring chances through his tenacity and pace. He puts in 3.66 crosses per 90 minutes with a 44.3% accuracy. He also enables a shot (key pass) 1.15 times per 90 minutes, and most of these key passes are crosses or through passes – both of which suit Klopp’s style of play a lot. His 20 goals in 198 appearances for Arsenal are not very impressive, but he is a big-game player and has scored in cup finals for the Gunners.
One can see why Liverpool fans are sceptical about this signing, especially since they were expecting a Thomas Lemar signing. But, Oxlade-Chamberlain has enough quality to succeed at Liverpool, provided he can remain fit and fast. He can use the strengths outlined above to demand a midfield role and excel in it.