Last time when I wrote about the Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Liverpool transfer rumour, it was in January. Liverpool had lost Coutinho to injury and Sadio Mane to AFCON and were missing a player who could play in the advanced midfield and create adequate chances.
The rumours have resurfaced over the last couple of weeks, perhaps with a bit more vigour and strength. The Red are again missing Sadio Mane, this time through injury. They are also missing Adam Lallana, the bundle of energy in their midfield. The rumours believe that the absences of these players perhaps has forced Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool to consider the Arsenal player as a worthy transfer target in the summer.
Reds’ circumstances have changed slightly, the list of injured players has changed but for some, the remedy is the same – bring in an irregular starter from a rival team at a high price as a squad player, some of the players are taking the best fat burner to contra rest the less exercise in their lifestyle.
Well, my opinion is also unchanged. In January, I believed that Liverpool and Klopp were right in distancing themselves from this transfer rumour. I believe that they should do so again.
Oxlade-Chamberlain may be a really good player and fairly young as of now. He is also apparently enjoying one of his better seasons in the Premier League. But my objections to his move to Liverpool remain the same – he is an injury-prone player, who puts in 45 minutes per appearance (50 mins per appearance in last 20 appearances) and does not bring any extraordinary capability to Liverpool, which their existing players do not already have. He has scored 6 and assisted 8 in all competitions so far this season, while Liverpool have quite a few players who can match that. Most of them do last more than 60-70 minutes per appearance. The other question is – where would he fit? Who would he replace in Klopp’s first-choice team? The answer is no one. Hence, I feel that buying an expensive back-up, who may need another back-up of his own might not be in Liverpool’s best interests.
The other reason for not buying Oxlade-Chamberlain is that there are similar or better and perhaps a little bit fitter players playing in the top-5 leagues in Europe and Liverpool should be looking at these players, instead of the Englishman. Let us take a look at five alternatives in this post.
For this exercise, I am looking at the list of top attacking midfielders that CIES Observatory drew up back in January. I will add context and stats from other sources but most of the comparison is based on the Observatory’s six metrics – Rigour, Recovery, Distribution, Take Ons, Chance Creation, and Shooting.
From the list, I am considering Ryad Boudebouz (Montpellier), Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig), Josip Ilicic (Fiorentina), Jonath Viera (UD Las Palmas), and Florian Thauvin (Marseille), as after removing the current Premier League or former Liverpool players, these are the top five in the list.
Adding age to the six metrics from the Observatory, we get the following comparison table. All the best and second-best traits are marked in green.
As we can see and as everyone who is for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s move to Liverpool have been harping about, he is one of the younger players in the attacking midfield/winger role. He is also good at fighting for the ball (rigour) and interceptions (recovery). But other than these positives, he is not in the top two for these parameters, across this peer set. As a result, CIES Observatory ranks him a bit lower than the others in the table.
Others who are not as impressive in this peer set are Fiorentina’s Josip Ilicic and Las Palmas’ Jonathan Viera. They are pretty decent players in their own current sides and have the ability, but when compared to this peer set, they are not that impressive.
Marseille’s Florian Thauvin, on the other hand, is just one year elder to Oxlade-Chamberlain but has better shooting and take on potential. Again good, can fill in some of the creative voids that seem to open up at Liverpool with injuries to the first-choice players, but not extraordinary.
Compared to these three players and Oxlade-Chamberlain, Emil Forsberg comes out as a much better player. Much better at interceptions than Ox, slightly better at Take On and Chance Creation, and on top of it gives 80 minutes per appearance. All this at about half the price. Age-wise also, he is not too much elder than Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The last one, Montpellier’s Ryad Boudebouz, on the other hand, is 4 years his elder, but much better in many other aspects. He has played almost full matches recently (28 of those in the league) and is much better at chance creation and distribution. He has scored 11 goals and 8 assists for his team this season and is one of the better players in this peer set. He is also estimated to be much cheaper than the Englishman.
I feel that even if you leave out Viera and Ilicic from the list above, the three others can be considered similar to Oxlade-Chamberlain or better. Yes, the Arsenal player can press and defend better than them but cannot create as many chances or keep similar levels of control on the ball. All of them are also cheaper than Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Further, we have excluded Premier League players here but there are several attacking midfielders better than the Ox including Michail Antonio and Lanzini at West Ham, who find their names in the top-20 list drawn up by CIES Observatory.
Whether Klopp is looking to replace someone in his advanced midfield or whether he wants to have a backup option, it is important for him and Liverpool to consider Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury record, the price for being a British footballer and balance it with his abilities. I feel that any such objective comparison will ensure that the rumours do not turn into an actual transfer deal.