It was not too long ago that we saw 24 year old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as an unmotivated player who was wasting away at Arsenal. With all of the potential in the world, but the wrong guidance from his manager, “The Ox” was headed down the path to obscurity. It is amazing what a change of scenery can do. More specifically, it is amazing what the right manager can do.
As I sat and watched Liverpool complete their dismantling of Manchester City on Sunday, I must admit, I got a bit emotional watching the post-match interview featuring Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. For a player who had been cast aside as a waste of talent last year, his words really resonated with me. It is clear Jürgen Klopp saved this player’s career, as he has for countless others during his years as a manager.
I have personally followed Jürgen Klopp since his days in the 2. Bundesliga at Mainz 05. The relationships he builds with his players are truly remarkable in today’s modern era of football. He genuinely loves his players. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been no exception to this. It was Jürgen Klopp after all, that was the deciding factor in his decision to leave Arsenal for Liverpool.
Liverpool decided to take a chance on “The Ox” on deadline day this past summer. Alex was a player that had been “Arsenal-ed” under Arsene Wenger. What I mean by that is, he had been misguided, mismanaged, and it was apparent the player was extremely frustrated by his situation within the club. He desperately needed a change of scenery. I will let the player himself best explain his situation with The Gunners.
“The biggest thing I’ve had to learn is how this manager [Jürgen Klopp] likes to stop situations at source and how he likes to attack is slightly different to my manager [Arsene Wenger] before. I was in certain habits and certain things became second nature to me and in football it is all about instinct. You train and train a certain thing so when you are in that situation you don’t think about it. It just might be a simple trigger when something happens and the defence passes to that player and the ball is slightly behind him. That is your cue to go and press. At your previous club you might not even look into that. I have about 100 different things but it is all those adding up” -Oxlade-Chamberlain on differences between Wenger and Klopp
“The Ox” and “The Normal One”
Continuing his post-match interview after the victory over The Citizens, it was apparent that Oxlade-Chamberlain believes that Liverpool is the perfect place for him. But it is not simply being at Anfield that has made a difference. In fact, it has little to do with the city or Merseyside at all. Listening to him speak it was clear that Jürgen Klopp has made Liverpool feel like home for the talented midfielder.
“The Ox” essentially confirmed that he had been cast as a dead-end player at The Emirates. This lad simply wanted to play regular first-team football. Under Wenger however, those opportunities had become fewer over time. Liverpool was a second chance to prove himself worthy of such a spot. His chances may have run out at Arsenal, but Klopp saw a chance to bring out the greatness we have all witnessed with Alex periodically. Klopp’s goal was to transform “periodically” into “permanent.”
It took a while, as it does with many players who come into a new squad, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain eventually found his footing at LFC. The change in his mindset from Arsenal to Liverpool was apparent in The Reds’ 5-0 victory over Swansea a few weeks ago. Despite getting on the score sheet, Alex was utterly dissatisfied with some of his final balls over the course of the match.
This was a breakthrough in his development at Liverpool. The desire to want to be better. At Arsenal, simply scoring a goal may have sufficed. Under Klopp’s leadership though, the young midfielder had now developed a desire to make the most of every minute he has on the pitch. “Ox” is without question an intelligent player. He knows he has a lot of room for improvement. It is that knowledge combined with the work ethic he has displayed in recent months that has seen him further earn the trust of his manager.
“He is a really hard-working boy and wants to improve. It’s good that he knows he can do better now we have to work together on it so he can do better. He is a perfect role model for pretty much all signings. He loves being here.” – Jürgen Klopp on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Through Hard Work and Perseverance…
At a cost of £35 million Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked to be a quite expensive gamble for Liverpool back in August. After his outstanding performance in the 4-3 victory over previously-unbeaten Manchester City on Sunday, the gamble looks to have paid off. In less than three weeks between the victory over Swansea and Klopp’s tactical masterpiece against City, the continued development of Oxlade-Chamberlain is highly visible.
His ability to press and his understanding of how Klopp’s system functions has indeed become a strength of the player. He understands triggers and when and when not to execute certain disciplines on the pitch. “The Ox” has become a vital part of Liverpool’s midfield. In his last four matches in which he has played the full 90 minutes, Alex has scored twice and assisted two goals. His best performance of the season undeniably came in the biggest match of the season, a mere three days ago against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
For many, myself included, Alex was an easy choice for “Man of the Match” against City. He scored the opening goal while also assisting one in the early stages of the second half. With the recent departure of Philippe Coutinho, Jürgen Klopp will have to rely even more heavily on Oxlade-Chamberlain. A top-four Premier League finish, the FA Cup, and possible Champions League glory are all in The Reds’ sights as the 2017-18 campaign approaches the “business” end.
As “The Ox” concluded his interview following the match against City, perhaps the greatest takeaway was the smile on his face. At Liverpool and with Klopp as his manager, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has gained something he never had at Arsenal, yet is so vitally important to a footballer’s success on the pitch: Happiness.