Alexander Oxland-Chamberlain has hit the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during his four years at Liverpool to this point. He has scored some important goals for the Reds, including a couple of absolute bangers in the 2017/18 campaign against Manchester City in both the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League. He has also lost almost two whole seasons worth of games through injury. Entering his fifth season with Liverpool, the new father took some time to reflect back on his Liverpool career thus far, and his new role as a mentor to some of the young starts coming through the ranks.
The midfielder signed from Arsenal in 2017 after displaying bags of talent, but a penchant for spending significant periods of time on the sideline with injuries. Arsenal wanted to hold onto him, but Ox wanted the opportunity to play in a midfield role for a team that was going to contend for trophies.
“I was sort of entering the second part of my career as I joined,” said Oxland-Chamberlain of the transfer. “So you’re not so much a kid anymore and the young talent with potential and prospects.”
“That sort of wanting to turn up and probably change people’s opinions of me, Liverpool fans’ opinions of me and what I could bring, from what they might have seen from me over the years as probably a more out-and-out winger. I wanted to turn up and make sure I did well, kick on, improve myself and help the team to move forward as well.”
Ox settled in and provided a solid return in his first season for Liverpool. He played in 42 matches between the league and Europe, scoring five goals while dishing out seven assists. He seemed to be growing in influence in the side before injury reared its ugly head. In late April of 2018 he tore his ACL and would miss almost the entire next season.
Ox finally returned to full fitness in the 2019/20 season, the season that Liverpool finally broke their Premier League duck. He managed to stay fit enough to play in 43 games in the league and Europe, but struggled with some up and down form.
“When I came back from the ACL, I played quite a bit in the season we won the league and I think I got the most goals that I’d got from midfield in my career – I think eight goals and a few assists – and obviously we finished the season brilliantly in terms of winning the league and that was amazing,” said the midfielder.
“But I think that season when I look back to it from my point of view, I’m always proud of what I was able to do coming back from that injury and basically going the whole season uninjured and being available at all times, but I think there was probably a bit of hangover from that injury. In terms of myself, I don’t remember a consistent enough spell where I felt like I was on fire. I think it was a good season in terms of what I’d come back from to get back to that level and play and be back away with England and stuff as well. But I knew there was more to come, more goals and just more consistent performances.”
Unfortunately for Oxlande-Chamberlain, he was unable to build on the season as he suffered another knee injury at the end of preseason before the 2020/21 season. He did manage to stay fit for the second half of the year, but was relegated to more of a bit part role.
With several players given extended breaks after international duty this summer, Oxlade-Chamberlain was given an expanded role this preseason, and was given the chance to play in a false-9 role. That versatility could prove crucial as Liverpool did not bolster their attack in the offseason.
“I feel like it’s just a chance for me to kick on and put down a really good season of consistent performances and hopefully some good numbers as well in terms of goals, assists. But I guess that’s all to come. It doesn’t feel like a new start because it’s all been part of the journey, the story. But I feel like this season’s important for me to go and do something really good – hopefully on an individual level and then obviously for the team.”
Besides potentially taking up a new position on the field, Ox has also taken on more of a role as a mentor to some of the young players like Harvey Elliott.
“I still see myself the same age as Harvey, to be fair!” laughed Oxlade-Chamberlain. “So it is a bit strange when you dip into the senior player pool – it comes around quick! It’s also important as well. Once you’ve been around the block and you’ve done a lot, that experience is important and it helps you going into games, into situations, playing with other players – how to communicate with each other and get the best out of each other and seeing them in general situations day to day. Experience always helps in that respect, so I don’t mind it. But it’s strange to think of me as one of the older ones now in the team.”
At 28, Ox isn’t exactly an elder statesman, but he is much closer to the twilight of his career most likely. He seems to know that in a team as accomplished as Liverpool, he is most likely not going to be a regular starter.
“When you’re 35 or 36 and you’re not playing anymore [author’s note: no on tell James Milner], it’s all said and done. I think I’ve got to 28 pretty quickly, so I’m sure that that will fly around as well. It’s more just about trying to enjoy every moment, keep pushing myself as much as I can to get the most out of myself and keep helping push the team to achieve as much as you can. Because when it’s all said and done, all you’ve got to look back on is what we all achieved as a team. So that’s where I’m at with that.”