Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made an ambitious move from Arsenal to Liverpool during the summer. Due to his contractual situation, he was a hot property and there was interest from a number of top English clubs.
Chelsea had registered an interest and had a bid accepted by the Gunners, but the England international had his heart set on a move to Anfield. Jurgen Klopp plays a high-energy style that appealed to the 24-year-old, but it hasn’t been straight-forward for him since making the switch.
The main motivation behind leaving Arsenal was that Chamberlain wanted to push on and he felt that a transfer was needed to breathe fresh life into his career.
There was a feeling that he had stagnated at Arsenal, while he was rarely used in his favoured position of central-midfield. Since breaking into senior football, he has been a victim of his own versatility, playing on either wing, at full-back, and in central midfield.
The quality that Liverpool already had in the middle of the park meant that opportunities there were going to be limited and he needed to take them when he arrived.
However, the sale of Philippe Coutinho opened up a chance for Chamberlain in an advanced midfield role. It was thought that Adam Lallana would be the one to take the spot, but his international team-mate has done very well there and could be the long-term solution in the role.
Although Chamberlain has been given chances in his favoured role of late, it took him some time to earn that opportunity. Klopp viewed him as a natural wide player upon signing and stated that he would need training in order to play centrally, as shown by the following quotes reported by the Mirror:
“I would say there has been no consistency until now. We let him run so far, let him do what he is naturally good at and it will take time but it’s all good. He is obviously powerful and that is what we need.
“At the moment his best position is more the wing that the No 8.
“Without training, playing in the middle of the park doesn’t make sense.”
To begin with, Chamberlain was mainly used from the bench and 14 of his 25 Premier League appearances for Liverpool have come as a substitute.
That is understandable as the Reds have a style under Klopp and it is difficult for players to come straight in to perform immediately. However, he has recently been picked in important matches, such as the victories over Everton and Manchester City since the turn of the year.
There will be rotation at a club as big as Liverpool, but Chamberlain is establishing himself as a starter and at the age of 24, he finally seems to be fulfilling his potential.
He is a good option to have in the centre of the park, as he provides dynamism and drive due to his history on the wing. The England international is willing to run at defenders and puts opposition teams on the back foot, which often leads to space being created for the front three.
The one area of his game that he will want to improve is his own contribution in the final third. At the time of writing, Chamberlain has three goals and four assists, with a goal involvement every 166.1 minutes.
Despite not being one of the main attacking players, he has the potential to produce better final product. If he does get more starts, Klopp would expect him to offer more in the attacking half.
In addition to being good in transition, the former Arsenal player has a high work rate and contributes to the team’s defence, as shown by his average of 1.15 successful tackles and 1.37 interceptions per ninety minutes.
Liverpool want to press high up the pitch and force opposing teams into errors in their own half. Chamberlain is very good at this and that is why a central role suits him at Anfield.
It was his display against Manchester City that showed the progress that he had made since signing for Jurgen Klopp’s side. He scored and assisted on that day, playing a key part in ending the visitors’ unbeaten Premier League run.
Chamberlain did well in transition, completing five dribbles and three key passes. Meanwhile, he made three ball recoveries off the ball. Given this came just days after the sale of Coutinho, it was a timely performance from the 24-year-old.
Despite being in and out of the team since then, Chamberlain remains the best placed to make the position his own and another strong showing against West Ham this past weekend strengthened his claim.
The midfielder was faultless in transition, as he completed four dribbles and made four key passes. He was the most creative player on the pitch and earned the assist for Mohamed Salah’s goal.
His distribution has developed a lot this season and his pass success rate of 91% underlines that he is making better decisions when he has the ball at his feet.
Jurgen Klopp explained that Chamberlain needed to learn the role and this match showed that he has taken those comments on board. He worked tirelessly without the ball and made four ball recoveries.
It was a complete midfield display and offered encouragement that the former Arsenal player can be an important figure at Anfield.
It was a brave decision to not spend big on a replacement for Coutinho during the January transfer window, but Klopp showed faith in the players already at the club and Chamberlain’s emergence shows that was the right decision.
The challenge is now for the midfielder to continue to impress and make the position his own ahead of the summer. If he plays like he did against West Ham on a consistent basis, he could become a fixture of the first-team for both club and country.