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Oxlade-Chamberlain – Liverpool’s most underrated player

After being on the receiving end of a resounding 4-0 win by Jürgen Klopp and his Reds, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain decided, if you can’t beat them, join them. He was announced as a Liverpool player three days later on transfer deadline day, leaving Arsenal for £35 million after seven seasons in London.

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Many fans questioned the signing at the time, despite previously being proven wrong by Klopp’s signings. Chamberlain always had the work ethic and the raw talent but Arsenal was never able to truly harness it.

What added fuel to the fire of Chamberlain’s naysayers was the poor results that followed. But after a brief adjustment period to Klopp’s style, he developed into Liverpool’s most underrated player.

The beginning

Over the next five games, the Reds managed just one win and it took Simon Mignolet saving a Jamie Vardy penalty to hold onto three points.

In those five games, Chamberlain managed more than 15 minutes just once – coming on after half an hour to replace Dejan Lovren against Tottenham. The less said about that, the better.

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Chamberlain didn’t have much time to affect those matches but he was used as the scapegoat anyway. Liverpool fans were still angry having missed out on Virgil Van Dijk and presumed Chamberlain was a panic buy.

Liverpool went into the November international break on the back of a 3-0 win against Huddersfield. Their first game back was away at West Ham, a game that Chamberlain started.

Liverpool left the London Stadium with three points after a near perfect 4-1 win and Oxlade-Chamberlain scored his first league goal for the Reds.

That win triggered a 13-game unbeaten run in the league and was a major catalyst in propelling the Reds into the top four.

Chamberlain’s personal performances also improved and it left Klopp with a difficult decision to make on how to include both Chamberlain and Coutinho in his starting XI. A lot of the time, he couldn’t.

A star in the making

Following Coutinho’s move to Barcelona, Chamberlain became a key figure in the Liverpool squad. None more so than in the 4-3 win against Manchester City at Anfield. It was their first league loss for the 2017-2018 season and one of only two losses throughout the 38 games.

After the new year, Chamberlain managed two goals and five assists – a goal or assist every 1.5 games. He also improved on his central midfield role and completed 2.1 key passes per 90, as well as 2.3 dribbles, which are numbers that would rival the likes of one Naby Keita.

In the months following the victory over Manchester City, Chamberlain was the man to link the front three and the midfield. His creativity and dynamism were on display for the whole league to see. The man who had been ridiculed back in August had become a key figure for the club.

In what was surely one of the finest games of his career, Chamberlain scored LFC’s goal of the season as the Reds dismantled Manchester City once more. This time in Europe’s premier club competition, the Champions League.

The future

On April 24, Liverpool continued their impressive Champions League run, this time against Roma in a 5-2 victory. Unfortunately, Chamberlain suffered a knee injury early on, which cut his season short. Ligament damage ruled him out of the World Cup after he was in strong contention for a starting spot.

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There were doubters when Chamberlain arrived on deadline day but he is sure to have proven everyone wrong and has more than lived up to his price-tag. He was a big miss in Kiev, particularly after Salah’s early injury, but he will come back even stronger next season.

If Liverpool manage to sign Fekir or another attacking midfielder, it would allow Chamberlain time to fully recover. The addition of Naby Keita and Fabinho will also allow the young Englishman to play to his strengths. He’ll have more freedom to run at defences and set up Liverpool’s lethal front three.

Liam Grimshaw
21, journalism graduate, avid LFC fan and aspiring writer.

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