It looked bad for Liverpool and England when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was stretchered off during the first half of the Reds’ game against AS Roma in the Champions League and their worst fears were confirmed on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old has suffered a knee injury, which will keep him out of the rest of the season and this summer’s World Cup.
This is incredibly harsh news to take for the midfielder, who had been playing the best football of his career under Jurgen Klopp.
Last summer, he made a huge career decision as he chose to leave Arsenal to join top-six rivals Liverpool and, in hindsight, it has been a great move for him.
His influence and consistency have stood out from the centre of the park and England would have benefitted from that in Russia.
However, Gareth Southgate needs to readjust quickly and find a suitable alternative to the Liverpool midfielder.
Here are three players that could replace Oxlade-Chamberlain and receive a World Cup call this summer:
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Crystal Palace
The injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain has opened up an opportunity for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will now have a chance of making the plane for Russia.
The midfielder has impressed at Crystal Palace and he delivered an assured performance against Germany on his international debut. Although injuries have hindered his progress since he remains one of the only dynamic midfielders available to Gareth Southgate.
Against Germany, he completed 96.2% of his passes and completed four successful dribbles. There were a lot of people that thought the call came too soon, but he looked at home on the international stage and he will be unknown to a lot of the teams England are due to face.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was going to provide the power and pace in the England midfield. Loftus-Cheek may not be as experienced as the Liverpool man, but he can step up and perform a similar role. If he can finish the season strongly, he will have a great chance of making the squad.
Jonjo Shelvey – Newcastle United
There are growing calls for the Newcastle United midfielder to be called up by Gareth Southgate and they will only increase with the news of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury.
Shelvey won’t be able to step into the same role, but he can provide different qualities and could be a worthy selection for England.
Newcastle’s recent surge up the league table have shown Shelvey in a good light and he has been a major reason for his team’s success.
The 26-year-old dictates the game from deep and has a passing range that can’t be matched by any other English player.
Against Arsenal, he was putting his team-mates in on goal at will and there is a place for his skills in the national set-up.
England have a number of quick attacking players and against better teams, Shelvey would provide a good option.
Southgate will need to set his side up to counter-attack and there is no better player to pick out the runs of Raheem Sterling and Jamie Vardy than the Newcastle midfielder.
There are risks to selecting the 26-year-old, but he deserves to be considered for the summer’s tournament.
Dele Alli – Tottenham
The Tottenham midfielder is going to go to the World Cup. Nobody can debate that, but he has found himself out of the starting eleven during recent friendly matches.
The injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain may benefit him, as there will now be a midfield position up for grabs.
Alli isn’t as comfortable in a central role as Oxlade-Chamberlain, but his goal threat and intelligent movement means that he could step into the starting eleven and play well.
The 22-year-old has had his critics this season, but a return of eight goals and ten assists in the Premier League underline the quality that he provides to a team.
Southgate will need to make sure Alli knows his defensive responsibilities and that the player carries them out to the letter, as England can’t afford to carry a midfield player.
At the age of 22, this summer could be an opportunity to break out for the Tottenham man.
It would be a risk to start him in a deeper role, but the rewards may be worth it.