Chamberlain move shows power shift

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Not long ago, Arsenal finished 18 points above Liverpool in the Premier League. Behind Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs, the Gunners represented the obvious final member of the top four. The Reds meanwhile had hit a serious decline after their failed 08/09 title bid, struggling to get beyond the 60-point mark.

No-one bat an eyelid when Arsenal tried to sign Luis Suarez in the summer of 2013, or at least they bat it at the comical nature of the fee, rather than the audacity of the target. A few years on, can you imagine Arsene Wenger ringing up Jurgen Klopp to enquire about the availability of Sadio Mane? It would be a non-starter.

In fact, the roles have reversed. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of the North London club’s better players – albeit not a superstar like Suarez – and sees a move to Merseyside as a more attractive option than staying put. In fact, he reportedly accepted lower wages to play at the club he supported as a boy than he would have received at his five-year home.

Liverpool are now 8/11 to make the top four this season while Arsenal, who are seeing more players leaving than joining, are 7/4, odds which can be found on betting apps for the Premier League. Chamberlain will bring numerous qualities to Anfield. He is quick, powerful and can change the direction of his runs, whilst also offering a good work rate and adaptability. There were plenty of times last season when Liverpool’s main left-sided forward, which was then Philippe Coutinho, was unavailable. This either meant moving Roberto Firmino to a position that didn’t suit him, starting the equally uncomfortable Divock Origi there, or blooding the untested Sheyi Ojo.

This time around, Mohamed Salah on the left or Mane on the right can be replaced by the 24-year-old and the balance of the team is not affected. It seems unlikely that the new signing will move straight into midfield, after the performances of Georginio Wijnaldum, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson against his old employers. However, he will provide competition for the two more advanced midfield roles next to Henderson.

Naby Keita shall not arrive until next summer while Adam Lallana will only return in November after a thigh injury. James Milner, who is also covering for Andrew Robertson at left-back, lacks the speed to burst into the box in the same way that others might do. Marko Grujic is talented but has only started eight games in his professional career: two in the League Cup and six in Serbia for Crvena Zvezda.

Extra depth in both central and forward areas is therefore welcome, especially with Champions League football to contend with as well as the three domestic competitions. Liverpool look prepared to go far in each of them while Arsenal are a club in decline – Chamberlain’s move shows us just how far the pendulum has swung.