By Connor Varnish – @cvarn4
Liverpool have been given some massively encouraging injury news over the past few days, regarding one of the most adored first team members of the squad.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s recovery is rumoured to be ahead of schedule after he suffered a cruciate ligament injury against Roma that has seen him out since March.
Given the implications of a title run in for the Reds, and that the Englishman progresses well with his fitness of course, should Jurgen Klopp feel enticed to feature Chamberlain down the line?
Logic would urge you to take the more cautious approach when dealing with such a serious injury, but should the Reds form suffer from an apparent lack of drive and creativity in a few months time, should Klopp consider giving the Ox a few appearances this season?
For Oxlade-Chamberlain’s sake I hope we don’t need to use him. If this season plays out how every Liverpool fan wants it to, we would all love to see Liverpool win the Premier League. I’d personally love to see the Ox get a Premier League winner’s medal – he’s deserving of one although he hasn’t featured for the Reds in just shy of a year.
Many feel a fit Oxlade-Chamberlain is the final piece in Jurgen Klopp’s team. A lot of talk this year has been about the lack of connectivity between midfield and attack, and sometimes rightly so.
Naby Keita hasn’t quite settled yet in Liverpool, as many were hoping he would immediately fill the creative gap in Klopp’s midfield after enjoying a full pre-season under the German. While one cannot deny the quality of Fabinho, Henderson, Milner, and Wijnaldum – none of them offer that bite in midfield when the Reds need to break on the attack.
Whispers suggest Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be back training with the first team as soon as mid-to-late February – with an aim of featuring for the first team sometime in March. Some would argue this as wishful thinking for a player who’s ruptured a cruciate ligament and has missed 42 matches, but who knows how Liverpool’s situation in the league will look when the Ox is back healthy.
Hopefully the league will be wrapped up by late April, affording Klopp the luxury of getting Chamberlain the five appearances he needs to collect a medal – but this isn’t a perfect world, and Liverpool don’t do things the easy way.
Manchester City will more than likely push the Reds all the way until May with a few more surprises in store certainly over the course of this season – this is why Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain needs to be handled with care.
Liverpool look a legitimate contender for Premier League glory in what feels like a lifetime – the pressure will be immense, no doubt. The intensity of the last few weeks of the season will be even higher than that of the 2013/14 season.
Being out of football for ten months doesn’t bode well for a team desperate for all three points, week-in week-out at a crucial stage in the season – Liverpool need players in top form all over the pitch if they want to win the Premier League. We cannot afford to risk the health of a player so vital to our team (considering he’s not 100% fit).
It would be an extremely tall order to expect Chamberlain to slot right back in the midfield as someone who’ll cover ground and deliver end product like he did last season every time he stepped onto the pitch.
Throughout his career, Chamberlain has proven he can come back from an injury and better his level of play. He’s still only 25 years old and has plenty of time in his Liverpool career to win trophies here. Although it’s not the most exciting point of view, perhaps it’d be wise to let the Ox fully recover before us fans consider calling for him on the team sheet in a few weeks.
But who knows – maybe Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has had a successful rehabilitation followed by a swift adjustment to the pace of first team football and feels like himself again before the season is through – perhaps it’s written in the stars that we could see a Premier League around the neck of the Ox come late May.