Football

Oxlade-Chamberlain: Bournemouth fell into our trap

After a slow start, former Arsenal starlet has found his mojo at Liverpool

No one is laughing at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain now.

For a time, the Liverpool attacking midfielder had become one of this season's early punchlines.

His £35 million (S$62.8m) move from Arsenal appeared to have caused a disturbance to the old order; his former club had not lost a game while his new employers simply could not win one.

But he's having the last laugh.

His Man-of-the-Match performance in the Reds' 4-0 win over Bournemouth yesterday morning (Singapore time) highlighted his recent upturn in fortunes.

Ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jermaine Jenas called it Oxlade-Chamberlain's best performance in a Liverpool shirt. Former Liverpool captain Jamie Redknapp saw a "real player" developing under manager Juergen Klopp.

A return to Arsenal later this week, for the first time since leaving four months ago, could not be better-timed for the England international, who finally looks like he's coming of age at Anfield.

"There are vast improvements in his game... What I am seeing here is that he is becoming a real player under Juergen Klopp."Jamie Redknapp on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Escaping the Emirates Stadium was a necessary evil for Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Tempting as it may have been to stay in the comfort zone of North London, the 24-year-old knew time was running out to fully establish his career before becoming the most recent example in English football's long list of cautionary tales.

He shared a dressing room with the epitome of unfulfilled potential in Theo Walcott.

Now 28, the forward's time with Arsene Wenger has yet to deliver the promise of his formative years.

"He is probably the most comfortable that I’ve seen him in the (Liverpool) shirt."Jermaine Jenas

But if Walcott had too much far too young, with premature England call-ups, injuries and a weight of expectations hampering his development, Oxlade-Chamberlain had far too little.

He was treated with kids' gloves by Wenger, potentially out of fear of history repeating itself.

Klopp sees a different side to his summer recruit.

He removed the shackles to allow him to leave an indelible mark on games, as he did again at the Vitality Stadium yesterday morning.

Where the decision to bench a key figure of Liverpool's Fab Four was considered misguided a week earlier, Oxlade-Chamberlain ensured that Sadio Mane's absence was not felt at Bournemouth.

EQUAL

A free-scoring Mohamed Salah and the exploits of Philippe Coutinho, still delivering despite appearing mentally checked-out of Anfield, admittedly made the challenge far easier, but their supporting cast member was equal in the performance stakes against the Cherries.

Oxlade-Chamberlain's new-found maturity was also reflected in front of the television cameras, as he interjected to come to Coutinho's aid when the playmaker faced yet another grilling over his future, as Barcelona continue to circle ahead of the January transfer window.

Back in a former parish on the English coast, only the woodwork prevented him from recording his third Liverpool goal this season.

Arsenal are unlikely to be so fortunate this Saturday morning when they face a player who was vindicated in believing that the grass was greener elsewhere.

It was a gamble which may not have paid off, as James Milner discovered in trading the English Premier League's bright lights for dimming ones on Merseyside.

The midfielder quit Manchester City in 2015 in favour of regular opportunities with Liverpool but was ultimately used largely as a makeshift left back.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is not naive enough to believe that he would immediately become an automatic starter at Liverpool, with competition in both a wide role as well as central midfield.

He is also not misguided enough to believe that switching from Wenger to Klopp would be a sideways or even retrograde step.

Given the German manager's relentless demands, moving north was a greater gamble than maintaining the status quo at the Emirates.

When he returns to his old stomping ground, Oxlade-Chamberlain will prove to Arsenal why he is the one that got away.


Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain said Bournemouth fell into their "trap" during a 4-0 loss yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Philippe Coutinho, Dejan Lovren, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino all scored at the Vitality Stadium to lift Liverpool to fourth place and extend the club's unbeaten run in the Premier League to nine games.

Oxlade-Chamberlain said the key to the Reds' emphatic win was pressing high and hitting the Cherries on the counter.

He told Liverpool's club website: "We set the trap, win the ball high and then we go.

"And when we go, we know we can be devastating.

"It's nice to be a part of. It's great that the attacking boys have been doing well.

"But I think you've got to give big credit to people like Dejan (Lovren) and Raggy (Ragnar Klavan) at the back as well; when you dominate games you can always be caught on the counter, especially with people like (Jermain) Defoe up front and (Joshua) King in the first half, who are good at running in behind."

It was a sentiment Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe shared.

He said: "They have the players that can hurt you, and when you turn the ball over like we did, with their counter attacking threat, it is very difficult...

"There have not been many times since I was Bournemouth manager that I have felt like this after a match.

"I'm so disappointed, and wanted to give more to the supporters."

Cherries defender Steve Cook added that his team were "shown up" by Liverpool after Bournemouth made the game "too easy for them".

He told the Bournemouth Daily Echo: "I think that was the first time this season we have actually been shown up.

"We knew their threats but they showed everyone why they were as good as they were.

"I thought we probably made it too easy for them.

"We gave them too much space, too much time and they exploited us."

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, meanwhile, said he was pleased with "pretty much everything" about the match but added his side must perform at the same level in every match.

"I'm not here to celebrate my squad," he told Sky Sports.

"I like them all - that's why they are at Liverpool.

"At the West Brom game (0-0), they were exactly the same players but they didn't hit the target. I don't change my mind (about the players).

"They are good - that's why they are at Liverpool - but they need to be consistently good because we are Liverpool.

"We are consistent, but we have to be even more consistent in decisive moments.

"We had a few games like the West Brom game - not performance-wise, but result-wise." - WIRE SERVICES

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