I had an interesting exchange on social media with a friend as we debated Liverpool’s position in the transfer window. Even though we have exactly 49 days remaining in this current window, fans are getting nervous at the recent lack of activity from the club. Many names are still being linked to the club, but one player was the source of my social media debate: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. My friend made the legitimate claim that he is a young, talented, quick, versatile player that would suit Klopp perfectly. I don’t disagree with any of those statements, yet I still don’t think Liverpool should make a move for him.
There has been much speculation about the Ox’s future as Arsenal have thus far failed to sign him to a new deal. With one year remaining on his current contract, people believe that Arsenal will ship the midfielder to another club rather than lose him on a free exit next summer once that contract expires. Liverpool is considered favorite to land him, presumably because he began his career at Southampton and scored against us last season. We’ve been known to admire those two qualities in a player. Jürgen Klopp also was quoted to admire his “explosiveness” and “energy” in an old interview, so obviously the media will speculate that the club must be interested. But should they be?
I preface this by saying I have absolutely no experience in the business and no inside knowledge in the Liverpool transfer business. I am merely a fan like you are. I don’t want the club to sign Oxlade-Chamberlain. I believe that Liverpool have needs far greater than adding depth to the midfield, which is precisely where the Ox would likely play. If we are going to sign another midfielder, he would have to be one that immediately gets inserted into our starting lineup for that European Cup final in Kiev next May (because we all know we are going to be playing in that one). Someone like Naby Keita is a no-brainer. Snatch him up if you can. But I can’t see the Ox making our first XI when the rest of our squad is fully fit. I’ve heard people call him a squad player, with Liverpool having plenty of games next season. Perhaps Klopp will want to convert him to a defensive player like he did Milner. All of those statements are possible, but consider that this is a World Cup year. The Ox will want to get as much time on the pitch as possible and do so in his preferred position. That’s the best way he makes the England squad for Russia 2018. Does moving to Liverpool help his situation? Consider the current options Klopp has in midfield: Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Salah, Henderson, Grujic, Mane, Lallana, and Emre Can. With the possible exception of Marko Grujic, I can’t say that the Ox is decidedly better than any of those other players on that list. And what happens when we get Naby Keita???
Let’s assume we sign him for a minute. How many games do you think he starts for us? Maybe half of our league matches? All of our Cup games? Perhaps a few European fixtures? Certainly he can be a valuable sub in all of those competitions. Here’s the catch… that’s what he’s already doing for Arsenal! Last year he started 16 Premier League games, subbed in on an additional 13 more. He started nearly every one of their nine Cup matches, and even started half of their eight Champions League fixtures. Barring a serious injury crisis, I can’t see him getting more pitch time than that for Liverpool next season.
The problem I see is that the other clubs he is linked with are Chelsea and Manchester City. News flash: they both have some damn good midfielders as well. I am not sure his potential playing time gets much better at either of those clubs. I’m not sure who is advising the young man, but personally I can’t find a better situation than for him to stay at Arsenal and finish out his contract. His situation won’t improve at one of the clubs with Champions League football. While Arsenal appear to be holding out for a transfer fee around £25 million for a player with one year remaining on his contract, I don’t know that there will be a club that he wants to play for willing to fork over that fee. I’m sure as the window starts to close, his situation will get sorted. He has the potential to be a great player with his best years in front of him. I just don’t see how he makes the 2017-18 Liverpool squad significantly better and worth the large investment it would take to acquire him. I’ve been wrong before. But as one of my favorite sayings goes, “I could be wrong, but I doubt it.”