SEVEN months into the Liverpool career of a summer signing and no semblance of the footballer you were expecting.
You might imagine this means he has failed to live up to your expectations, that he has toiled through his first season and underwhelmed since his arrival in August.
But with this player, skeptics spoke of an injury-prone utility man with no position, who had been consistently inconsistent for too long.
Quick to accentuate the negatives from the beginning, they warned you that he’s overrated and, with raised eyebrows, they laughed at a fee of £35million.
You’ll be tearing your hair out watching Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, they said.
However, with each game he plays for Liverpool, he rips up the narrative fed to us by Arsenal fans and throws it right in the bin, alongside the Champions League aspirations of his former team.
While The Gunners languish in sixth, 15 points behind Liverpool and looking set for another season of Europa League football, The Reds’ summer signing is flourishing in the position he told us was his best, as the supplier to Europe’s most potent front three.
We were meant to be mourning the loss of Philippe Coutinho.
We were meant to struggle without him but instead Chamberlain is shaking off the stench of Arsenal and vacating the void left by the Brazilian. He’s developing into the player Arsenal hoped he would, under the management of Jürgen Klopp.
You sense a steely determination to silence his critics and consolidate his place within the German’s 11.
Thierry Henry claimed he was unsure what his former teammate was good at. Gary Neville believed Arsenal had got the better end of the deal. The difference now is that the shackles have been removed.
As part of Klopp’s all-action midfield, he’s breaking between the lines at speed and unlocking the opposition defence. He’s displaying his physical attributes — pace, power and strength — when driving from midfield but there’s an added intelligence and maturity to his game.
This is a football team tailored to allow the front three to flourish, but the setup also complements the England international.
Chamberlain has been directly involved in seven goals in his last 10 games, more than he managed in five of his six seasons of Premier League and European football at Arsenal. An indication that his development had decelerated because of the setup under Arsene Wenger.
Under the Frenchman, his inability to fulfill early potential could be seen as the embodiment of the club’s current malaise.
Now, though, he is the epitome of an exciting new era of transfer activity under Klopp, where there is no discussion around the “Transfer Committee”.
Any debate around who is to blame for certain signings has been suppressed by the club’s successes in the market under the German’s stewardship.
And Oxlade-Chamberlain can be added to the long list of shrewd purchases under Klopp and, in turn, spark a renewed trust in the club’s transfer strategy. Weakening a rival, the squad has been strengthened with a signing that is now enjoying a renaissance dressed in deep Red.
It feels like the team’s performances of late have reignited a new-found belief on the pitch and in the stands. Like we’re falling in love with this team. You sense these are the foundations for new beginnings under Klopp, as we enter a new chapter of his story.
The team is evolving in front of our eyes and so too is Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Now he has an opportunity to write himself into this story, under a manager with the propensity for unlocking potential in those he believes in, while negating the negative perceptions that have surrounded him.
In doing so, you hope he will begin to shape a new personal narrative of his own; the rough diamond that many doubted would succeed at the highest level, now polished in the Red of Liverpool and finally realising his potential.
I’m all in on Oxlade-Chamberlain.
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Premature this article, claiming he silenced the critics already.
Yes, Ox has shown good signs and there is a lot of room for improvement. But mainly, he has been inconsistent and some of the decision-making on the pitch at times was mediocre at best.
He’s putting the work in and lately he shows vision for the final pass into the opposition’s box.
It’s all about consistency now for the player.
Funny, you could have been describing Emre Can. He s the most inconsistent of our midfield options. Cut the Ox some slack, he s now getting steady run of games in his favourite position and is showing remarkable signs of progress for someone still getting used to playing under Klopp. I adore Can but he hasn’t shown as much improvement as Chamberlain has.
Nice piece Craig.
He’d be in my starting XI at the moment ahead of Lallana and Gini – and that’s a pretty high bar as far as I’m concerned. His contribution in the last few games he has started has been key and he seems to be developing in front of our eyes, a process that can only continue if he gets time on the pitch.
Additionally, I drafted him in my ROTO fantasy team at the start of the season and have kept the faith(just don’t mention that to Mr R Guttman!) so the more time he gets on the pitch the better!
I agree Steve. I’d also put him ahead of Gini’ and Lallana at the moment and I think that’s quite high praise. I think it’ll be very good for us to have Lallana and Alex (Oxy-Chambly Wambo) pushing each other on for that spot. Maybe not so much Gini’ as it seems he’s often ear-marked for contention in one of the other two slightly deeper midfield roles.
Pleased to see Oxlade-Chamberlain playing well lately in the centre though and I think he’s only just starting on this stage of his development. I find him more intriguing as a midfielder than Emre at this point.
….and he talks a lot of sense whenever interviewed. Loved that piece when he both protected and defended Coutinho when the Brazilian was asked a stupid question back in December and the way he spoke about his positives and areas to improve in reply to Neville and Henry. Clearly enjoying being part of a Klopp’s evolution and is a far better player now that he was when at Arsenal. #WTRWWAW
‘…consistently inconsistent…’. Ooh, ‘our Hannan, he loves a juxtaposition.
Nice piece Craig, well written and interesting. Also a nice little allusion to ‘you’ve got to….accentuate the positive, EE-lim-inate. the negative….etc, etc’ which is never a bad thing in my book.
One thing though, I don’t think we were all of us surprised that Oxy-Chambly-Wambo is a half decent player. I was quite pleased when we beat Chelsea to him because I’ve always believed that he could shine in a central role. He’s always looked to me, with his athletic physicality, like a player who could ‘drive’ through the lines. At Arsenal, and also with England a lot of the time, he seemed to be playing within himself. I remember him talking in the paper about Gerrard being a hero of his (I think it was after he’d scored a Stevie-esque screamer for England) a few years back and it really made sense to me.
He can obviously improve, at the moment it’s just a good start but, I’m very happy he’s at Anfield and I think it’ll be exciting to watch his development from here on.
He’s the problem with the article, you CAN’T read it because the background colors mix with the color of the article letters, I had to scroll over each section and highlight it just to read it.
What device are you using, mate? Can’t see the issue on this end.
It seems like he brings something different to the attacking options in the team- his physicality and directness a great option against defences which may of previously frustated us (with players like Lallana and Coutinho our only option). I am loving it.
I was going to ask if you meant filling the void but then decided that “vacating the void left by the Brazilian” is a little bit brilliant. Enjoyed this, Craig.