Football fans as a whole love to criticise players right from the get-go, as was the case when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Liverpool in the summer. Moving from Arsenal for a reported fee of £35million, he was labelled a flop after failing to catch the eye after coming on as a sub. Question marks were raised about the club’s investment in the Englishman given his eye-opening injury record and severe lack of contributions in the final third.
Said question marks were only intensified when Liverpool were booted out of the Carabao Cup against Leicester, with the 24-year-old carelessly misplacing several passes to put his team on the back foot. Sluggish in possession, he couldn’t produce any quality in the final third – although none of his teammates faired any better in that regard.
Taking up the position as the club’s newest scapegoat, the former-Arsenal midfielder endured a tough initiation to life on Merseyside as Liverpool suffered a wretched September that saw them pick up just one win in all competitions. However, since coming on as a substitute against Manchester United, Chamberlain has slowly begun to turn the screw for his new club.
An impressive 20-minute spell brought out the very best of the England international, with direct running and pace down the right-hand side adding an extra dimension to the Liverpool attack. A flurry of dangerous balls into the box so nearly made the difference on the day, providing Chamberlain with that crucial lift-off moment.
Scoring his first goal against Maribor, Chamberlain ensured Liverpool recorded the biggest away win in Champions League history with a 7-0 rout, showing far more freedom in possession. Some intricate combination play with Daniel Sturridge on the edge of the area saw him through on goal, with Ox showing far more composure than his nine-goal tally for Arsenal would suggest guiding the ball delicately into the far corner.
Slowly beginning to warm to the hearts of Liverpool fans with another pleasing performance against Huddersfield, the 24-year-old later grabbed his first start in the league against West Ham; a game which brought another goal his way. ‘Twas a crucial goal too, scoring The Reds’ third just seconds after Manuel Lanzini had reduced the deficit for the home side. Such was the speed of the goal that Hammers fans were still blowing their inaugural bubbles in the air as Chamberlain was picture pumping his fists in jubilation. The goal proved vital in the outcome of the match, ensuring Liverpool maintained their forward momentum to take all the spoils at the London Stadium.
“I just like this player because he is already experienced but he is so open to getting used to what we do and that is really nice. He is like ‘what do you want from me’ and he reacts. He will be a really important player for us.” – Klopp on Chamberlain
Starting against Chelsea was a mark of how far Chamberlain had come in itself, with Jurgen Klopp entrusting him to do the business alongside Sturridge and Salah; a decision that paid dividends when he slotted the Egyptian through with a prodded through ball behind the Chelsea backline. The awareness and intricacy of the pass was a marked improvement on previous weeks, showing clear progression to demonstrate what he can offer the side.
Liverpool’s latest game, then.
Chamberlain produced another pleasing display in the 3-0 win over Stoke at the weekend, buying into Klopp’s ethos with a performance fuelled with grit and determination. Much like James Milner, Ox will never be a man to steal the headlines – especially in a team blessed with such attacking flair in the shape of Coutinho, Mane and Salah – but the 24-year-old is very much proving his worth to this Liverpool side.
Still, with plenty more to give, Chamberlain represents a dependable figure for Jurgen Klopp, with his versatility an invaluable gift heading into a rigorous fixture schedule. He’s shrugged off the irrational criticism that his arrival produced, turning doubters into believers to prove himself as a more than capable asset for The Reds.