Currently, Liverpool possess a solid – and occasionally excellent – central midfield trio in Emre Can, Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson. Each of them is, at the moment at least, a significantly better player than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Emre Can is a year younger and an infinitely more gifted technician. Wijnaldum has every bit as much ‘power’ as Oxlade-Chamberlain and also happens to be a better all-round option. Henderson lacks the technique and physicality of the other two but compensates with leadership and experience.
All things considered, the three combine well to produce a nice little mix of styles, and allowing The Ox to insert himself into such a tight unit would be an error on the part of Jurgen Klopp.
So where exactly does the new arrival fit in Liverpool’s midfield? The simple answer is that, well, he doesn’t.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has the positional discipline of a kitten whose milk has been laced with MDMA, and his passing has all the penetrative thrust of a marzipan dildo. Let’s not even start on that first touch, which is about as reliable and consistent as a Donald Trump statement on his ties to Russia.
Which is why, at Arsenal, Ox started only a handful of games in the centre of Wenger’s midfield.
Frankly, he was never considered anywhere near good enough to keep the likes of Granit Xhaka, Santi Cazorla (when fit) or Aaron Ramsey out of the side. Even Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny were usually preferred ahead of him when one of the first string were unavailable.
If he can’t get into an Arsenal midfield that crumples as quickly under pressure as a BP oil rig, is he really going to make an impact in what is currently a much better Liverpool team? Still, Jurgen Klopp obviously trusts him, and who are we to question the vision of a man who regularly picks Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno in the same defence?
Looking at the Reds’ squad, it seems clear that Oxlade-Chamberlain will prove to be a very decent rotational option. In some ways he’s the classic Jack-of-All-Trades footballer – good at most things, exceptional at none: he can easily and competently cover six or seven positions on the pitch, and is as much use as a utility player as anything else.
But The Ox hasn’t moved to Anfield in order to serve in the same role he did at the Emirates.
His stated aim is to start games in central midfield, and Jurgen Klopp may well find himself under pressure from the player and fans in order to do so.
Buying Oxlade-Chamberlain is not a mistake, but disrupting the equilibrium of Liverpool’s midfield by dropping him into the heart of it would be. It’ll be interesting to see how the manager handles the situation over the coming months.