Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s bemused Liverpool reaction offers stark £16m summer question

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cut a frustrated figure when substituted in Liverpool’s FA Cup defeat of Nottingham Forest.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's reaction told it all.

When the midfielder discovered he was being sacrificed so Jurgen Klopp could send in the cavalry, his reaction wasn't a grateful one. Far from it.

Oxlade-Chamberlain hardly tried to hide he was taking umbrage at being substituted during the Reds' FA Cup quart-final tie against Nottingham Forest.

There was a furrowed brown pulled, a shrug of the shoulders and then he muttered something to himself before trudging off the City Ground pitch bemused.

Oxlade-Chamberlain's evening was over - and he must have felt another opportunity to impress was put paid to prematurely.

The England international's Anfield tale is well documented. An eye-catching maiden season after joining from Arsenal for a reported £40 million in 2017 was curtailed by a cruel knee injury.

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Since then, momentum -which he desperately requires - has largely eluded Oxlade-Chamberlain.

His display against Forest epitomised the season he's having. There were some flashes of his qualities when he opened his legs and forayed at will, while a clever corner saw Fabinho flash a shot wide.

But more was needed from Oxlade-Chamberlain in the middle of the park. He wasted the ball 11 times in the first half.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during Liverpool’s defeat of Nottingham Forest. Picture: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

The former Southampton man might not have accepted being brought off during a tactical switch in the 64th minute.

But Klopp's decision to tweak his midfield, with Naby Keita also subbed for Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara respectively, would yield Liverpool a place in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

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Oxlade-Chamberlain wasn't jovial as he left the fray. He hadn’t been scintillating but hadn’t been lacklustre, either.

Yet the change was justified by the 1-0 result.

Makeshift moments

Surprisingly, Oxlade-Chamberlain's Forest outing was his 29th of the 2021-22 campaign. It doesn't seem like he has made that many appearances because, for the vast majority, he has been confined to a bit-part role.

In truth, Oxlade-Chamberlain's best spell this term came when Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were away at the African Cup of Nations.

With Liverpool having a dearth of attacking options, it was the 28-year-old who operated as an auxiliary forward.

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During that period, he netted in victories against Brentford and Crystal Palace. It was a glimmer that his Anfield career could be rejuvenated.

But since that 3-1 victory over Palace almost two months ago, Oxlade-Chamberlain has managed to play in just three of the Reds' subsequent 13 games.

Only one of those has been in the Premier League, with 223 minutes of football being accrued in total.

Out of Klopp's central midfielders, no-one has played less during the same period. Henderson, Thiago, Fabinho, Keita, James Milner, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott's qualities have been all preferred.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates scoring for Liverpool. Picture: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Given the hectic April that Liverpool are now braced for, utilising the squad depth will be imperative.

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However, Klopp is awash with engine-room operators.

And when it comes to forward options, he's no longer short of firepower after the arrival of Luis Diaz.

It leaves Oxlade-Chamberlain in a familiar place on the periphery of things.

Summer decision

There'll be little chance to force his way into the starting XI in training given the frenetic fixture schedule, so his current backup role may be where he remains.

In fairness, given Liverpool are pushing for a historic quadruple, Oxlade-Chamberlain will know he has a part to play.

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If the Reds went on to land the unprecedented achievement, he'd be part of the best team Anfield has ever witnessed - arguably in the history of English football.

However, at his current age, Oxlade-Chamberlain's heading towards a crucial juncture.

Out of contract in the summer of 2023, he has to decide it'll be the time to depart Merseyside at the end of the campaign. Regular football will be what he covets once again.

There would be suitors all queuing up to take him if that is to be the case. What’s more, Klopp recently admitted he may not be able to hang onto all of his squad given the strength in depth.

Given Liverpool are well-stocked in midfield, coupled with Fabio Carvalho expected to arrive from Fulham, cashing in on Oxlade-Chamberlain may be prudent.

Per Transfermrkt, he has a valuation of £16.2 million.

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A fee in that region would cover the costs of Carvalho and allow Oxlade-Chamberlain to reignite his stuttering career elsewhere.