Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson has taken time to praise Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who’s still in rehab following his horror injury last season.
The former Arsenal man was enjoying a terrific run of form at the time, having scored a wonderful goal against Manchester City in the Champions League, but was cruelly struck down in the semi-final of the same competition.
Early on against AS Roma at Anfield, Ox made a crunching tackle on a Roma wing-back and came out of it worse, stretchered off to a standing ovation.
Liverpool got through the tie, but eventually, news broke that Ox would not only miss the Champions League Final, but also the World Cup with England and almost the entirety of this season, too.
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In Ox’s absence, Liverpool have started the season very well, to be fair.
We’re joint-top of the Premier League table having won six and drawn two games out of eight.
However, in all competitions, we’re four matches without a win and the midfield is visibly lacking a player with his drive and dynamism.
Naby Keita was meant to automatically provide this but has far taken more time to adapt than we perhaps expected.
“It’s very difficult for Ox. The great performances he was putting in before he got injured made it one of the best periods of his career so far. So to get injured for such a long time is hard to take,” Henderson told the official Liverpool FC magazine.
“The type of lad he is, he’s very positive, very good to be around, and he’s remained like that. I’m sure he’ll have his moments at home and maybe here at Melwood when the lads aren’t here, but whenever I speak to him he’s always positive and he always looks good.
“He’s a great lad and I just hope he can keep getting stronger and get back to us as soon as he can, because he’s a massive, massive player for us.”
At the moment, it doesn’t look like Ox will be back before next spring, at the earliest.
Even when he returns to full training, it’ll take him a very long time to get match fit and it’ll be the climax of the season and not the right time to start bedding someone into the side anyway.
As a result, he probably needs next summer’s pre-season to get himself fully right again.
The phrase, ‘like a new signing,’ is bandied about often, but in Ox’s case, it’ll definitely feel true!
Adam Lallana is ageing, unable to stay fit and not the player he once was, while seemingly evergreen James Milner is 32 and won’t be able to play every match.
Keita and Fabinho, both signed a few months back, will play big roles, but it looks like the middle of the park could perhaps do with another addition.
Two names that interest us greatly are Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal and PSG’s Adrien Rabiot.
Both are available on a Bosman come the end of this season, when their actual values in the transfer marked would be £40m+ should they have years left on their prospective contracts.
For this reason, they present superb value, but also would provide our midfield with something different. Rabiot has guile and the ability to control a game’s tempo as well as create, while Ramsey gets into the opposition box and makes things happen, unlike any of our current roster.
Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum are decent options for Jurgen Klopp, but neither pass especially progressively and occasionally stagnate our offence.
With one of Ramsey or Rabiot, Ox eventually returning and both Keita and Fabinho up to speed, Liverpool’s midfield could be as strong as our defence and attack.