It’s increasingly looking like young Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliott aside — both unlikely to play significant minutes for the first team this season — Liverpool won’t be making any big, splashy signings this summer. Given that they ended last year with a club-record Premier League points haul and a Champions League title win, trusting the players already at the club isn’t completely unreasonable, but many fans will undoubtedly be disappointed that the Reds don’t look to be adding anybody to their current crop.
It’s a good thing, then, that in place of actual new signings, you have players who are like a new signing. Made infamous by Brendan Rodgers years ago, the phrase carries with it some dismaying connotations, but when players who have been unable to contribute for a full 12 months, as is the case with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, return to the fold, it remains an accurate description of the situation.
“He’s like a new signing for us,” said Jordan Henderson about the former Arsenal man. “He’s such a fantastic player, so powerful, and he gives us something different in this team.
“I’ve played with him for a number of years, especially at U21s [level] and now with Liverpool and England. So I’m quite close with him and he’s a fantastic person. Off the field, last season he was a massive part behind the scenes, even though he had a really bad injury and I’m sure he will have been going through some painful times.”
”He was always positive, always happy around the team, always there to support us when we needed him,” the skipper continued effusively. “He was a massive part for us off the field and this season I hope he’s a massive part on the field as well.
”I hope he can just show everybody what he’s capable of, like he did before he got injured. He’s looked so strong, so good in training. This pre-season is important for him, just to get back to playing games regularly and to get his match fitness back. I’m sure once he does that then he’ll be flying again.”
The knee injury that put Ox out of commission for a year — the third in his career — came just as he had established himself as a vital cog in the high-intensity press-and-counter machine Jürgen Klopp had built, and if he can reclaim that spot this season, the 25-year old will make the middle of the park a nightmare for opposing playmakers.
Fingers, toes and miscellaneous appendages crossed that a full pre-season is just what the Ox needs, and that the club’s strategy of hanging back in the transfer market proves the right decision.