While some — this writer included — felt Liverpool overpaid considerably for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when they splashed £35m to bring a midfielder with only one year left on his contract on board in the summer of 2017, the former Arsenal man proved his worth over the course of the season, providing five goals and eight assists in a little over 2.000 minutes, while becoming a critical part in the Reds’ ability to both press and progress the ball.
Another pleasant aspect of the move — and one that made Ox’s knee injury all the more devastating — was just how delightful a character the 25-year old showed himself to be. Energetic, positive and charming, the Southampton youth product began melting icy Liverpool hearts as soon as he walked into the cafeteria at Melwood and began bantering with Carol and Caroline on his very first day in red.
Now, nearly 11 months on from his third major knee injury, Oxlade-Chamberlain is nearing a return, starting with 45 minutes for the U23s against Derby on Friday, and the response from his teammates has been one of joy.
“He’s been missed,” Daniel Sturridge said on the latest episode of LFC Later. “I love that guy!
”He’s been through a big injury, which is difficult to return from. But it’s his dedication, his hardwork that he has put in on the training pitch.
”The banter he brings to the boys, to the group, the lads, I love being around him, so it’s great to see him back out there and to see him so sharp as well.
”He’s been really sharp out there and he doesn’t seem as though he has been injured. It’s great to have him back.”
That’s all really very heartwarming, and while Reds fans would do well to not put too much pressure on a player who has been out of commission for so long, reports that Ox is looking sharp is good news for a team that has struggled to move the ball into the final third in recent months.
Whether or not Oxlade-Chamberlain recovers enough that he can contribute to the Reds’ season before it wraps up, though, the most important thing is that he is healthy in the long-term, and that, hopefully, this is the last serious injury he suffers.