While the world was preparing for the new year celebrations, and Liverpool were preparing for a footballing marathon, the transfer rumour mills that are seemingly always turning and churning through up an interesting combination – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Liverool, in January.
The rumour claimed that Liverpool were interested due to Coutinho’s continued absence and especially due to the absence of Sadio Mane throughout the month of January as he will be away on national duty. It went on to claim that Liverpool’s interest was strong and a bid would be forthcoming shortly. The reasons why Liverpool might bid for Oxlade-Chamberlain are many – he is a young (23) Southampton academy graduate with Champions League experience, he has pace, can assist and score equally well, and has 24 England caps and 5 goals to his name. However, a bid did not materialize. In fact, the Liverpool manager – Jurgen Klopp, unequivocally denied having any interest in the player. In his characteristic style, the Reds manager called the rumour “nonsense”.
In this post, let us look at the possible reasons why Liverpool and Klopp have decided not to pursue the player.
While in general clubs are reluctant to sell players in the same league, especially to direct competitors, there is history between Arsenal and Liverpool when it comes to transfers. In 2013, when Arsenal had made a bid of £40 million plus £1 for Luis Suarez, believing that they had triggered his transfer clause, Liverpool’s owner John W Henry had replied through a tweet, questioning “What are they smoking at the Emirates?”. This parley has ensured that the transfer relations between the two clubs will remain icy at best for some time.
While Chamberlain might be a good player on the pitch, there are just too many times when he is unable to get on it. He has missed 38 matches in all competitions in the last two full seasons. From groin strains and hamstring problems in 2014-15 season, to thigh muscle rupture, knee injury and medial collateral ligament injury during last season he has had several injury problems and such an injury record with Klopp’s style of play would make for a disaster for the player.
This injury problem also hampers the games that he gets. In a total of 117 Premier League appearances, Oxlade-Chamberlain has not finished 108 (60 subbed on, 48 subbed off), playing only 45 minutes on an average. Compare this to Liverpool’s midfielders and we find that they are far fitter. Sadio Mane has appeared 86 times for Southampton and Liverpool but has played the full game in 40 instances. He has been subbed off 33 times and subbed on 13 times, playing on average 74 minutes. Adam Lallana as well has played an average of 74 minutes over 143 Premier League matches, and has been subbed off 70 times, while being brought on 18 times. Wijnaldum is even better in that he has played an average of 81 minutes over 57 matches in the Premier League. Of those 57, he has been subbed off only 14 times, while being subbed on 5 times.
This season, Oxlade-Chamberlain has scored 6 and assisted 6 in all competitions, contributing a goal every 98 minutes. In his entire Premier League experience, he has scored 9 and assisted 15 in 5,342 minutes, meaning a goal contributed every 222 minutes. Compare that to Sadio Mane, who has scored 30 and assisted 16 in his yet short Premier League career, amounting to a goal contribution every 139 minutes. Adam Lallana, who can be considered a Premier League veteran compared to Mane and Chamberlain has a goal contribution every 180 minutes and he is improving tremendously. The only other player that Chamberlain can hope to replace in Liverpool squad is Wijnaldum, who has scored 13 and assisted 7 in his two-season PL career so far, contributing a goal every 230 minutes. Also Klopp has not really used him as a potential goal scorer this season.
Klopp clearly is not looking at a player only to fill Mane’s shoes in January. If he were, at 20-25 million pounds this is a costly deal. And in the long term, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s affinity to injuries is a huge hindrance. He is a decent player but certainly not what Liverpool needs at the moment. Klopp cannot afford to have one more such player after Sturridge and Ings, howsoever talented he may be. Klopp should turn to Liverpool’s bench and academy to fill the gaps in January, although the replacement might not be as successful as the Senegalese winger. And he should let Arsene Wenger decide what he needs to do about his injury prone player.