Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has completed a £40 million move to Liverpool on the final day of the transfer window, bringing to an end an Arsenal career lasting just over six years. The 24 year old England international signed from Southampton in August 2011 for £15 million, and at the time Arsene Wenger was quoted as saying “We are looking forward to him fulfilling his huge potential with Arsenal.”
Looking back, it’s debatable whether that was the case, as Oxlade-Chamberlain’s Arsenal career seemed to stutter and stumble, only threatening to burst into life on fitful occasions. The bare statistics sum up a moderately successful time; 132 Premier League appearances, 9 goals and 14 assists. But they also belie the nature of his role at Arsenal, where he was frequently cast as the utility player and shuffled all over the pitch, as evidenced by his current profile on the Arsenal team website:
“The Ox also showed his incredible versatility during the campaign, playing in no fewer than seven different positions. Commonly found on the right wing…he switched seamlessly to right wing back…[and] also featured in central midfield, left wing, right back and left back.”
While this is spun as a positive factor, and it does speak well of Oxlade Chamberlain’s willingness to act as a team player, it seems to be a major factor behind the young player’s desire to seek a transfer.
Chelsea were the first team to have a bid accepted, also worth £40 million, but Oxlade-Chamberlain was unable to agree personal terms with the club. A big sticking point seems to have been the fact that Chelsea widely envisaged him playing further as a wing-back, whereas Oxlade-Chamberlain is eager to seek a more central role in the midfield.
The fact that he’s been able to come to an agreement with Liverpool suggests that the club have been able to offer him some guarantees in that area. It should make for an interesting selection headache for Jurgen Klopp, as the front six have functioned well in the club’s unbeaten start to the season. The most likely outcome is for Oxlade-Chamberlain to replace either Can or Wijnaldum, but, as he’s still relatively untested in a central role, it could be a gamble for Klopp to unseat one of his more settled players.
Another risk for Liverpool is that, as with so many Arsenal players, his career has thus far been dogged by injury. Until last season, he’d failed to manage an appearance in more than two thirds of Arsenal’s league matches in any given season, and he’s missed 75 matches in six years with various complaints.
As with all transfers, it’s difficult to predict how this one will pan out. While it’s already tempting to write off Oxlade-Chamberlain as another bright young England starlet who burned out long before fulfilling his potential, it’s important to remember that he’s still only 24. Back in 2011, Oxlade-Chamberlain was Arsenal’s third-signing of the summer, following Carl Jenkinson (now of Birmingham) and Gervinho (currently at Hebei China Fortune). Of those, he’s certainly had the most successful Arsenal career, but he’ll also be hoping to be the one who kicks on and has the most successful post-Arsenal career. If Liverpool can get his pace and power working in a central role, it’s highly possible that will be the case.