The rumour mill has been churning that Liverpool are in for Arsenal midfield Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Whilst there are certainly arguments for and against his signing, the bigger question is if Liverpool were to make a move, would Oxlade-Chamberlain be keen, given that his role at the side will be almost identical to his role at Arsenal?
An exciting young prospect
At just 23, Oxlade-Chamberlain is still a young player, and still possesses the raw talent that he did when he moved to Arsenal six years ago. Even if his progress at the Gunners has been stunted, he’s still fast, strong, good on the ball and will work hard for the team.
What’s more, those raw attributes can be utilised in a number of positions. He’s been used much as Adam Lallana has for Liverpool: both out wide and through the middle of the midfield.
As such, he can be almost a like-for-like replacement for Lallana or Georginio Wijnaldum in Liverpool’s midfield, or as an option replacing Sadio Mané, both as a rotation option and when Mané is injured.
A versatile, raw talent, with experience in the Premier League and the Champions League all mean that Oxlade-Chamberlain ticks a lot of the boxes for a Jürgen Klopp player and – given that he’s in the last year of his contract at Arsenal – he shouldn’t be too expensive either; more like £20 million than the initially-touted £35 million.
Oxlade-Chamberlain's injury record a concern
The main concern with Oxlade-Chamberlain is that his career and development have been ravaged by injuries, as he’s missed over 500 days to injury since January 2013.
As such, he’s never started 20 games in a league season for Arsenal, and moreover, he’s never scored more than two league goals in a single season either. In fact, clocking up just 62 starts over the last six seasons, Oxlade-Chamberlain has yet to truly get his career going.
And that is a major issue. Liverpool would effectively find a player who is in the same position he was in six years ago when he signed for Arsenal. Whether or not there is a talented player in Oxlade-Chamberlain, that talent is yet to be fully utilised.
Unlikely to start
And this is one of the key issues that fundamentally undermines the Oxlade-Chamberlain transfer rumours. This is simply put, a sideways move, a nothing move.
The move on paper makes no sense for the player. If Oxlade-Chamberlain wants to leave Arsenal to win trophies then why move to Liverpool, a team that are scarcely more likely to win trophies moving forwards than the Gunners?
If, which is more likely, then Oxlade-Chamberlain wants a move to get more game time under his belt and move forwards in his career, then the move makes even less sense.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has made 13 starts for Arsenal this season, and has languished behind Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi in the pecking order for large periods of the season. He has been given a reasonable run of games across all four competitions, but he was never a consistent starter for Arsenal.
But will he make any more starts for Liverpool? The answer is almost certainly not.
If he was to move to Liverpool, he would already be behind Sadio Mané in his preferred position on the right-hand side, and he would be behind Lallana and Wijnaldum, as well as Emre Can and Jordan Henderson in the middle of midfield, even assuming Liverpool retain the 4-3-3 for next midfield, as they may switch to a two-man midfield.
And that’s before Liverpool’s other summer signings, as both winger and central midfield are areas where Liverpool will look to strengthen on top of buying Oxlade-Chamberlain. As such, although Liverpool will be fighting on four fronts, Oxlade-Chamberlain may find himself as the sixth choice central midfielder and third choice right-winger, a situation that surely wouldn’t be the case at the Emirates.
And whilst this wouldn’t be good for him, it wouldn’t necessarily be good for Liverpool either. Oxlade-Chamberlain is at the stage of his career where he simply needs regular game time to develop properly and that is unlikely to happen except for in the EFL Cup and the FA Cup.
The team already have talented young players such as Marko Grujić and Harry Wilson who will be looking to develop further in these cup competitions, and to an extent, Liverpool cannot afford to have another potentially talented player filling the bench and denying young players the opportunity, especially if that player is 24, which Oxlade-Chamberlain will be by the time he arrives at Anfield.
Overall, is Oxlade-Chamberlain likely to further his career more by moving to Liverpool than he is moving to another Premier League club, or indeed staying at Arsenal? No, probably not.
And from Liverpool’s perspective, whilst he’s a talented option to have at their disposal, the Reds need to be buying players to challenge the first eleven, or who are younger with a higher ceiling. And Oxlade-Chamberlain is neither.