When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was looking to leave Arsenal in the summer of 2017, many people were extremely surprised. He was an extremely versatile player for the Gunners and could play several different positions. There were major links of him going to Chelsea, which was understandable considering they were Premier League Champions and the system they had in place was dependent on attacking wing-backs would have suited Oxlade-Chamberlain massively. However, Liverpool came in at the last minute and the decision to sign Oxlade-Chamberlain has massively paid off. He is a vital member of Liverpool’s squad and having him in the team allows them to play many different ways. His injury problems have hampered his progression into being one of the first names on the team sheet, however, this season has proved a turning point and he has contributed significantly to Liverpool’s success.
His versatility in terms of playing different positions is a skill that not many players have. He has been deployed centrally for most of his time at Liverpool, which is certainly his favourite position. This was something that he was often missing at Arsenal as he was constantly being deployed out wide which is not his natural position. At Liverpool, the only time he has played on the wing is if there is an injury or suspension to either Sadio Mané or Mohamed Salah. This has helped Oxlade-Chamberlain transition into a player that is representative of the potential he has always shown. Liverpool’s central midfield is always chopping and changing and if he can keep away from the injury table and continue his excellent form in the centre of midfield there is no reason why he can’t become a first-team starter.
This tactical analysis will highlight the improvement Oxlade-Chamberlain has made to his game to make him a vital cog in the Liverpool machine. This scout report will also look at the tactics that have allowed him to flourish and will also provide a deeper analysis as to why the Liverpool team is most suited to his abilities.
One of Oxlade Chamberlain’s strongest attributes is his dribbling and his ability to skip past players without losing the ball. This aspect of his game has always been present since his youth days at Southampton and it is an excellent footballing strength to possess. He has 794 touches of the ball in the Premier League itself, which his higher than both Giovani Lo Celso of Tottenham Hotspur and Bernard of Everton. This comparison is important, as it highlights Oxlade-Chamberlain’s output in terms of dribbling in comparison to other central midfielders. Oxlade-Chamberlain ranks 87th taken in touches taken out of Premier League midfielders. In terms of dispossessions, Oxlade-Chamberlain has only been disposed of the ball 15 times, which is less than Jack Grealish and Mason Mount. He ranks 143rd in terms of how many times he has been dispossessed. He also averages 1.2 dribbles per game across all competitions which is more than Jordan Henderson who is the Liverpool captain.
The use of these statistics is not to dampen on the ability of the other players that are being compared with Oxlade-Chamberlain but to highlight how excellent his dribbling is In comparison to other English players that play in a similar position. Dribbling is also an important aspect of a midfielder’s game and highlighting how different midfielders differ in terms of touches and dispossession is vital.
The main reason for his excellent dribbling is the technique he uses to get past players. Oxlade-Chamberlain is quick, mobile, athletic and has a great awareness of the spaces around him. This, therefore, allows him to put himself in situations where he can drag players close to him and beat them with ability. This is an aspect of his game which none of the other Liverpool central midfielders possesses which makes him unique in this regard. When attacking the spaces this is very useful for Liverpool, as it creates space for other players to get into.
Below is an excellent example of this. We can see Oxlade-Chamberlain with the ball at his feet with two Newcastle United players surrounding him. His spatial awareness and athleticism allow him to skip past both and push Liverpool forward on the break. It is clear to see that this athleticism coupled with his awareness of space allows him to have so many successful dribbles as was mentioned earlier. This, therefore, is what is special about Oxlade-Chamberlain and allows him to stand out in comparison to other Liverpool midfielders.
The ability of Oxlade-Chamberlain to beat opponents with ease most likely comes from his previous experiences as a winger. During his earlier days at Arsenal, Oxlade-Chamberlin was almost always deployed as a right-sided winger to beat opponents and get crosses into Arsenal’s attacking players. This has transmitted to his current self and has allowed him to use this ability in the middle of the park. It is rare for any central midfielder to have the style of dribbling that Oxlade-Chamberlain has which further highlights how important his previous experiences as a winger have been for his development. In the previous image, we saw Oxlade-Chamberlain dribbling past players in a deeper area of the pitch, however, it is also the case that he uses his dribbling ability to get himself into positions to shoot.
Below we can see an excellent example of this. Oxlade-Chamberlain has the ball on the edge of the area and is lining up to shoot until he fake shots the ball to push the opposing defender the other way to have a better shot on goal. This faint style of getting past an opposing defender is very useful to have a better chance of scoring. As will be discussed later, this significantly contributes to Oxlade-Chamberlain’s style of striking the ball which leads to a higher amount of goals.
Goals for any central midfielder is vital in the modern era of football. Getting forward and supporting the attacking players both on and off the ball is extremely important. Oxlade-Chamberlain has learnt through his time at Liverpool to do this more often. As a result, he has scored more goals especially from outside the box. He has seven goals to his name in all competitions and of these seven goals, four have come from outside the box. This is a speciality of Oxlade-Chamberlain as his long-range shooting ability is excellent and it allows him to get more goals compared to previous seasons. The shots per game statistic are also vital when committing analysis. Oxlade-Chamberlain averages 1.5 shots per 90 minutes, with Georginio Wijnaldum averaging one shot, Jordan Henderson with 0.6 and Fabinho with 0.4. Although Liverpool’s midfield changes often, the midfield of Wijnaldum, Henderson and Fabinho is Liverpool’s most used midfield three. Oxlade-Chamberlain is much higher in the shots per game in comparison to the three starting midfielders, which highlights his intent to get forward and score in comparison the usual starters. This also is evidence as to why Oxlade-Chamberlin should be starting more often.
The technique of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shooting from outside the box is also worth deeper analysis. When he receives the ball on the edge of the area he often uses his excellent dribbling ability, which was discussed earlier, to make space and have a shot on goal. When striking the ball itself, he often looks to where the goalkeeper is standing to determine where he is going to shoot the ball itself. It will often be where the goalkeeper has left the most space. This has always been present in Oxlade-Chamberlain’s game, however, since Liverpool are so defensively stable it means he is allowed to do this attacking play more often. At Arsenal, it was often the case that they were weak in defending transitions and, therefore, Oxlade-Chamberlain would be concerned with that as opposed to getting forward.
Below is an example of this shooting technique which has been present in Oxlade-Chamberlain’s game. We can see him on the edge of the area, poised to shoot at goal. He eventually takes the strike and it ends up going into the near post, goalkeepers’ right-hand side, and Liverpool score. His positioning is not just created by luck, as we saw earlier, his ability to get past opposition players allows him to create space to have a shot on goal. This is where Oxlade-Chamberlain’s main source of goals comes from which is a credit to him and his technique.
Despite this excellent ability to score goals from outside the box, there is an improvement that Oxlade-Chamberlain can make to gain more goals and goal contributions. Of the 31 shots Oxlade-Chamberlain has made in the Premier League, eight have gone on target. That, therefore, gives him a 26% shooting accuracy. This could be improved and the number of shots that Oxlade-Chamberlain has could have a higher amount of shots on target. Of the eight shots on target, Oxlade-Chamberlain has had in the Premier League only three have been scored which is less than half. Therefore, there could be room for improvement in terms of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shooting development.
The 2018/2019 season saw Oxlade-Chamberlain make only two appearances for Liverpool due to injury, so it is impossible to make a comparison. However, the 2017/2018 season saw Oxlade Chamberlain score three goals in the Premier League with him taking 47 shots and getting 17 of these on target, giving him a 36% of shooting accuracy. These statistics show us that Oxlade-Chamberlain is taking fewer shots on goal. This could be because Liverpool has developed into a world-class attacking side which means there is less requirement of goals from midfield. Oxlade-Chamberlain should look to develop this to increase his shooting accuracy. He has got an exceptional right foot, as seen in previous seasons with his goals against Manchester City in the Champions League and the Premier League in the 2017/18 season.
Below is another example of Oxlade-Chamberlain using his shooting technique to excellent effect. Before he shoots he almost freezes the goalkeeper and makes it harder for him to get down and save the ball. This is especially useful against goalkeepers who are taller and less able to dive to save the ball. He can score from this by finding the far corner which highlights his ability to score from outside the box.
Winning the ball back
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s ability off the ball is as important to his overall game to his on the ball attributes. He is exceptional in the press that Liverpool operate with and is excellent in winning the ball back across the pitch. He’s made 14 tackles in the Premier League this season, which is more than Aston Villa central defender Tyrone Mings and Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin. He has 14 blocked shots, 17 interceptions, 68 recoveries and 58 duels won. This is alongside zero errors leading to goals and 23 successful 50/50’s. These are all excellent standings for a central midfielder, and it makes Oxlade-Chamberlain perfect for this Liverpool side. This ability to win the ball back also has been a huge part of his footballing education, as he has always had such responsibility from his time at Arsenal. There were times that he would be the wing-back in a back five which would require excellent defensive concentration. This has, therefore, remained a part of his game at Liverpool which once again makes him unique in comparison to other Liverpool midfielders.
Below is an example of Oxlade-Chamberlain winning the ball back in the defensive third. We can see his body position to be facing the attacker, thus insinuating that he is going to intercept the pass and move Liverpool forward. These sorts of examples can be seen as a huge reason as to why he has made so many interceptions and duels that have been won. This fits perfectly into what Liverpool require from a central midfielder.
Despite it being a slight stereotype, Jürgen Klopp’s midfield system has more of an emphasis on individuals who can get up and down the pitch, engage in tackling and winning the ball back and giving the ball to the forward players. The likes of Wijnaldum and Henderson are perfect for this, ergo their place in the starting line up is always guaranteed. Oxlade-Chamberlain has always fit this criterion, It is the main reason as to why Klopp signed him in the first place. His injury record, however, has hindered this massively. The way Oxlade-Chamberlain can win the ball back regularly and get Liverpool moving on the counter-attack coupled with consistency and avoiding injuries on a mass scale will allow him to be a first-choice selection. His willingness to track back and engage in defensive transitions is also an excellent characteristic to possess which could also help in terms of an England place. Overall, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s ability off the ball is fantastic and has elevated him into the player he is today.
Below is an example of a crunching tackle made by Oxlade-Chamberlain against Manchester United. We can see United coming forward on the break, however, Oxlade-Chamberlain can make an excellent tackle to stop them coming forward and, as a result, Liverpool wins the ball back and can come forward on the counter-attack. This is the sort of tackle that Oxlade-Chamberlain is used to making and can be seen as an explanation for his excellent statistics in terms of defensive work off the ball.
To conclude, it is evident to see how important Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is to the current Liverpool side. His versatility as a player and his ability to change games with his pace and athleticism. In all great title winning teams, players such as Oxlade-Chamberlain are the glue that holds the foundation of the squad together. His dribbling, shooting and ability to win the ball back are just a few of his qualities which have allowed him to become a vital member of the Liverpool squad. His injuries have previously kept him out of the team, however, he slowly seems to be getting over these issues and with some luck it is the hope of all Liverpool fans that he can get a run in the first team.