Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is close to signing a 12-month contract extension at Anfield, reports suggest. It may come as a surprise to some considering the 25-year-old’s lengthy spell out of the team with a serious knee injury.
However, manager Jurgen Klopp is believed to be a massive fan of what the England international brings to the team when he is fit and available.
There’s no doubt that Oxlade-Chamberlain offers something different to the other midfielders the Reds boss has at his disposal. With the exception of Naby Keita, he is the only one really prepared to run with the ball from deep areas.
In Klopp’s system, in particular, his mobility can make a huge difference to how the team performs. Breaking lines by winning one-on-one duels is an attribute that is crucial at the highest level. Defences are so well drilled at the top of the game that players who are able to disrupt their opponent’s defensive shape can be vital.
Oxlade-Chamberlain showed in the second half of the 2017/18 season that he could make a huge impact in the Liverpool team by doing just that. After bedding in during his first six months at the club following his summer switch from Arsenal, he began to develop an understanding of Klopp’s system, with the German using him in order to exploit his opponent’s weak points.
Pace is a huge part of how Klopp likes to play. Using a high press, you can win the ball back high up the pitch, but that won’t create a goal by itself usually. You need fast players to take advantage of the counter-attack and hit the opposition when their defence is at its weakest: directly after losing the ball.
Oxlade-Chamberlain scored two goals and provided six assists from January 2018 onwards before his injury against Roma cruelly ended his season short.
It may take some time getting back up to that level again but there’s no doubt he provides a genuine alternative in Liverpool’s midfield. Klopp certainly recognises that considering he is willing to extend his current contract despite the player only playing twice last season.
Going by his Instagram and his videos for the club, he also looks like an important character in the dressing room. No doubt, Klopp believes simply having him around the place can improve the atmosphere among the players too.
Hopefully, next season, with his fitness problems behind him, he can be more than a cheerleader and get back to doing what he does best on the pitch.