Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has not enjoyed the successful start to his Liverpool career he would have hoped for but is this just a frustrating bedding in process or is there an underlying worry that he isn’t good enough?
It wasn’t exactly the debut Oxlade-Chamberlain would have wanted when he entered the fray at half time with Liverpool 2-0 down and reduced to ten men away at Manchester City.
A couple of good touches early on aside, it was not how the new signing would have wanted to introduce himself to his new supporters as he and the rest of the team were overrun by Pep Guardiola’s side.
His first start didn’t exactly go to plan either and he was largely ridiculed, especially by Arsenal fans, as Liverpool were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Leicester City 2-0 at the King Power Stadium.
Chamberlain was deployed on the right side of a front three and while he had some bad moments he did show in moments what he could bring to Jürgen Klopp’s side with some good, quick interchange and link play, yet he lost the ball on numerous occasions and his final ball lacked sufficient quality.
In large part though he has featured from the bench, in Liverpool’s frustrating 1-1 draw with Burnley as well as the 2-2 draw with Sevilla in the first UEFA Champions League group game and the 3-2 victory over Leicester.
Whether Liverpool should have pulled the trigger and sanctioned the big money move for Oxlade-Chamberlain is a debate for another day. The fact is Liverpool decided to spend big money, £35m rising to £40m to be exact, on the Englishman so the question is why hasn’t he had much of an impact so far?
What is obvious is that Oxlade-Chamberlain did not come to Liverpool to settle for being a bit part player, one of the reasons why he left Arsenal, but he himself will admit that he would have been hoping to play a lot more than he has done so far.
Since Klopp arrived at Liverpool it has been noticeable that transfer deals have been done relatively early in the window with the likes of Sadio Mane and Joel Matip being confirmed before pre-season had even begun.
The difference with the Southampton academy graduate is that he was signed on deadline day after the season had already begun.
Chamberlain has therefore come in at a slight disadvantage to the rest of the side and in particular his fellow central midfielders because Klopp places a lot of emphasis on tactics and flow of play, worked on in intense training sessions during pre-season.
The Reds boss will have worked with the crop of players at his disposal for the whole of pre-season, (and before that) meaning they are more comfortable in their roles and already know what is expected of them.
Liverpool play a very demanding system and in the centre of the park you must have a super engine to cope with the amount of ground that must be covered during the 90 minutes as well as being positionally aware whilst attacking, pressing, recovering and defending.
It shouldn’t mean that Chamberlain should take too long to get used to the style of play required but if he wants to become a specialised central midfielder then certain parts of his game need further development such as his use of the ball especially in the final third, picking the right pass and executing it with accuracy and speed.
A learning process
Judging the attacking midfielder now and suggesting that he may not be good enough for Liverpool is arguably quite laughable. He is still only 24 and about to enter the prime of his career.
It was well documented in the summer how Klopp didn’t want to settle for second best when bringing players in and the Liverpool manager wouldn’t have sanctioned the move on transfer deadline day if he didn’t feel Chamberlain was good enough to play for the Reds.
We all know that Klopp loves to coach and improve players on the training field and it will be the same for Chamberlain who had saw his career and development stall at Arsenal.
Adam Lallana arguably went through this same type of development under Klopp because he wasn’t a guaranteed started for the German when he initially arrived, injury problems didn’t help his case either, but if you compare Lallana now compared to when Klopp arrived he is a completely different player.
Chamberlain wants to play central midfield and it is a position that he can play and has done during his time at Arsenal but not for a prolonged period. It is likely that the no.21 will be looking to occupy the same type of role as Liverpool’s no.20.
Not many were truly certain of whether Lallana would work in a three-man midfield especially in the role he plays and doubts where made about a number of his attributes yet after an excellent season last term, questions were no longer being asked.
Despite being fairly vocal about wanting to play in the middle of the park, Chamberlain still has a lot to learn and he may find himself occupying one of the two wide roles if and when Klopp chooses to rotate the likes of Mane and Mohamed Salah whilst retaining the pace in the side.
It may not be the role Oxlade-Chamberlain initially wanted but especially with Philippe Coutinho back in the fold it raises the competition for places even higher with the Brazilian occupying one of the three midfield roles on occasion.
Questions remain about whether Oxlade-Chamberlain will be good enough to play in a central role but judging by what Klopp has done for other players and improving them then there is no reason why he can’t take the big money signing to the next level and beyond.
The former Arsenal man has a lot to learn but his apparent willingness to work and listen to his new boss indicates he is ready to take on advice and use that to turn himself into the creative midfielder he believes he can be.
While initial impact has been minimal and his start frustrating, to say Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is not good enough or to even suggest that is too quick a judgement on a player who has been at the club for less than a month; lets just see how the situation develops.