It was poetic, and as some close to the player believe, had a powerful sense of destiny. Arsenal have come to town and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has come to life for Liverpool in a full and dynamic way not seen since 2017-18.
Watching the midfielder against his former club at Anfield on Saturday night was not just a throwback when he was at his explosive best under Jurgen Klopp, but a twig for the player he described himself as while he was still in North London.
In 2013, Oxlade-Chamberlain painted his stylistic profile on the official Arsenal website: “Dribble with the ball, run towards defenders, face players and try to open up teams. I like to take a picture.
“Arsenal is all about beautiful, complex passing moves around the box, so if I shoot too much from outside the box without scoring the boss will attack me!” I have to stick to short passes so I’m shooting less now.
Having found his natural instincts curbed, with his high octane playing at odds with Arsene Wenger’s “orchestra”, Oxlade-Chamberlain finally found the freedom of football on Merseyside.
He was so compatible with Klopp’s organized chaos that he became the manager’s weapon of choice even in the most important matches: those against Manchester City.
The reality of Liverpool being extremely aggressive and utterly ruthless in transition relied on donations from Oxlade-Chamberlain, with the top three taking advantage.
The horrific injury he suffered against Roma in April 2018 – tearing his ACL, damaging his lateral and medial ligaments in the process while tearing his hamstring tendon – didn’t just steal the dynamo of two appearances Champions League finals, but the ability to influence Liverpool. evolution.
Their attack blurs that would cripple their opponents and were married to Oxlade-Chamberlain’s forces were not conducive to oust defenders in depth to mount a sustained challenge for the title.
Liverpool have focused on control, sharpening the spine with the addition of Fabinho to complement the defensive strength of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk.
The plan was to go from being a blitz machine to an extremely tough team to beat, who learned to do whatever it takes to win.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was embarking on a grueling rehabilitation process as this metamorphosis was in full swing and even when he returned to contribute well in the victorious season, Liverpool felt like a driving force beyond their capabilities.
Another knee problem cruelly denied him the chance to erode that impression and despite the critical nature of the injury crisis at Anfield last season, the former England international was only entitled to two starts in all of them. competitions.
Had the global pandemic not affected the market so dramatically, offers would have been received and accepted for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had to wait until the start of this month to launch into the XI.
His opportunity is due to absences due to injury in midfield, with Harvey Elliott, Naby Keita, Curtis Jones and James Milner generally being preferred.
It doesn’t matter how the 28-year-old’s shot to recover at Liverpool materialized, but what he did with it.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was brightening up against Atletico Madrid, but he was still somewhat trapped in the counterproductive cycle of trying to do too much with his small outings.
“The problem is, when you haven’t played for a long time and you look at the situation, you think you have to convince people,” Klopp explained.
“He’s had his Oxlade-Chamberlain moments: good with the ball and all that stuff. But we also need Mr. Oxlade-Chamberlain; the ripe, the calm, closing it. When he hasn’t played for a long time, he tries to outdo himself in a game.
Against Arsenal and with the platform of a phenomenal Thiago-Fabinho pivot, the midfielder delivered just that in an urgent masterclass that marmalized Mikel Arteta’s men.
Oxlade-Chamberlain displayed incredible positional and defensive sense, while his support play and midfield balance were superb.
It was good news not only for him but also for Liverpool who appear to be changing shape again in the current campaign. It is the offensive power that has been restored as the hallmark of the team, without any consecutive clean sheet in the league since the start of the season.
The reduction in defensive strength is partly due to midfield issues, with the exit of Gini Wijnaldum removing his safety status first.
Saturday’s line has worked perfectly for both protecting and supplying attackers, giving Oxlade-Chamberlain a real chance to work their way into Klopp’s grand plan.
Liverpool have wanted to shift some of their creative output from full-backs to midfield as their opponents try to stifle Trent Alexander-Arnold in particular. Thiago signing had this project in mind and Oxlade-Chamberlain could help him move it forward.
After seeing the last evolution take shape from behind the scenes, he could now sketch the next one.
But he’s got to be largely injury-free and “the mature, calm, last” from now on. The Oxlade-Chamberlain from 2017-18, but more refined. The version he described in 2013 to Arsenal, reinforced by experience, adversity and the ability to bounce back.