Liverpool have had a positive summer to date, but they were dealt a bitter blow on Wednesday as it was announced that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would miss the majority of the 2018/19 season. It is thought that competitive game-time during the next 12 months would be regarded as a bonus for the midfielder. The 24-year-old suffered serious ligament damage during a Champions League match against Roma in April and the prognosis has been kept out of the media until now. The midfielder didn’t want to distract from the end of the season and the club have likely chosen now, due to the good feeling built by their recruitment.
Last summer, Oxlade-Chamberlain was seen as an underwhelming signing, but he quickly made an impact and suited the style of play that is coached by Jurgen Klopp. He was heavily involved in the first team and was given a chance to play in his favoured position. In the Premier League, he contributed three goals and seven assists. The former Arsenal man was involved in a goal every 148.5 minutes and thrived in the pressing system at Anfield, as shown by his average of 1.6 ball recoveries per game.
The player will be disappointed that his injury will hamper his development under Klopp, especially given the arrivals this summer. Naby Keita and Fabinho have been signed to strengthen the midfield options at the club. However, the injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain could give a fresh opportunity to Gini Wijnaldum. The Dutch international has been linked with a move away from Liverpool this summer, but the today’s news means that it would be silly for the Reds to move him on. He is versatile and capable of playing a number of roles within the team. Although he hasn’t established himself as a regular starter, he is a very good squad player for a top-four team.
During his first season with Liverpool, Wijnaldum looked to be a great purchase with potential. He contributed six goals and nine assists, regularly scoring in big matches and thriving in a regular starting role. His second campaign at Anfield was less impressive. Despite starting 27 times, he only contributed one goal and two assists. Throughout matches, he was less influential in possession and it can be argued that he was affected by the emergence of Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Throughout his time in England, Wijnaldum has proven himself to be a goal threat and towards the end of last season, his game was lacking confidence. Supporters will be hoping that the summer break has given him time to recharge his batteries and return in better spirits. It is likely that he starts the season behind the two new signings and Jordan Henderson in the pecking order, but he has the talent to play a prominent role.
Given their transfer business completed to date and with more arrivals expected, Liverpool are emerging as title contenders. However, for that to happen, they need to have quality beneath the first eleven and that was lacking last season. Wijnaldum has been a regular in the starting eleven since joining the club. He may not be good enough to maintain that role if the club continue to progress, but he is an excellent option to have in the squad. The Reds would have been shooting themselves in the foot if they sold him and the Oxlade-Chamberlain injury news underlines that.