LIVERPOOL, England – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s Liverpool career coming to an end today at the team where it all started for him is a nice bit of symmetry.
Before going to Arsenal in 2011 just before turning 18 and then to Anfield, thanks to a £35 million ($43.2 million in today’s currency) deal, six years later, Oxlade-Chamberlain spent a decade rising through Southampton’s youth ranks and another season with their first team.
He will be departing on a free transfer this summer at the end of his contract, so if he does play at St. Mary’s this afternoon for the 147th and final time in the colors of Liverpool, it will have special significance for both him and the crowd traveling from Merseyside.
No one could look back on Oxlade-Chamberlain’s tenure at Anfield and say it wasn’t a success. That is ensured by five trophies, including the Champions League and the Premier League.
He had just turned 24 and was about to reach his prime years. He had won trophies with Arsenal, including three FA Cups, and had 27 England caps. And probably most importantly, he was adaptable. He was not just a strong central midfielder, but he had also played winger and wing-back in the past. Positional fluidity is one quality that Jurgen Klopp values highly, as demonstrated by the 18 starts that Oxlade-Chamberlain has made for him in forward positions.
Not that things got off to a good start. Sadio Mane’s red card for a high charge on goalkeeper Ederson in the first half of Manchester City’s 5-0 thrashing of Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium turned his debut into a day to forget.
A recurring motif in his Liverpool career would be the city.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first statement performance for the club came in the 4-3 revenge win over Pep Guardiola’s side at Anfield the following January (he scored the first goal in what was title-bound City’s first Premier League defeat all season) and by the time the teams met again in the Champions League quarter-finals three months later, his progress was such that the City manager felt compelled to namecheck him alongside Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.
He was there to upset Guardiola once more in the return leg a week later, helping to set up Salah’s away goal just before the hour to cancel out Gabriel Jesus’ early opener. That gave Liverpool a 4-1 advantage overall, and when Firmino scored a second goal 20 minutes later, Liverpool’s semifinal spot was all but assured.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was a man full of inspiration; he was at the center of all of Liverpool’s best plays and assisted them in their push for what could be a historic sixth European Championship. Life was practically perfect.
But something happened next, and everything changed.
The awkward collision occurred after 15 minutes of the first leg of the semi-final match at Anfield between Liverpool and Roma when Oxlade-Chamberlain slid in for a tackle on Kolarov. That was pretty much it; he was left groaning on the ground, holding his hurt right knee. In addition to missing the 2018 World Cup in Russia by not playing for Liverpool that season, he also spent the majority of 2018–19 on the return path.
It was a trying time for everyone involved, but Partridge, who left the club in 2020 to accept a position with the Qatar national team, actually has fond memories of the time spent with Oxlade-Chamberlain and his family.
He had a similar impact the following season. Liverpool finally ended their 30-year wait to win the domestic championship once more thanks to his 30 games, four goals, and one assist in the Premier League.
He would never quite play as many minutes and make as many starts for Liverpool as he did in that 2019–20 season, but he has continued to be a key player in the background, is well-liked and respected by the coaching staff and his fellow players, and still holds the distinction of having the best win percentage of any player in club history when starting across all competitions.