Alex Oxlade-ChamberlainGetty

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has removed Arsenal's shackles at Liverpool to show his strengths

As the initial words “there’s so much speculation around you” rolled off the interviewer’s tongue, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked away, took a slightly exaggerated breath, and then listened as an uneasy Philippe Coutinho began to answer.

The pair had just walked off the pitch as Liverpool registered a 4-0 victory at Bournemouth to become the first team in English top-flight history to have won four consecutive away games by a margin of at least three goals.

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Bournemouth vs. Liverpool

The Brazilian had served up yet another hypnotic showing as the club’s orchestrator-in-chief and Oxlade-Chamberlain had contributed his finest performance since his £35 million move from Arsenal - one overflowing with the hallmarks of Jurgen Klopp’s “full-throttle football”.

What happened next in that post-match TV interview at the Vitality Stadium further cemented why the manager and Liverpool’s recruitment team strongly believed the England international not only had the profile but the personality to prosper under the German.

Coutinho, generally reticent - more so when he is not speaking his first language and especially so when he is aware whatever he says on his future will spin headlines worldwide, replied out of typical politeness.

Only seconds passed before Oxlade-Chamberlain cut through the awkwardness, and as he had done for 90 minutes, took things on.

“He’s a Liverpool player right now and he’s doing really well for us,” the 24-year-old said on Sky Sports.

“He’s been the most professional person I’ve seen all season. He’s been top quality from the start and every time he gets on the pitch he does his all for the club and that’s the most important thing right now.

“It’s not fair to ask those kind of questions I don’t think.

“He gives his all every game and that’s all we can ask from him.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was desperate to get “out of his comfort zone” at Arsenal, helped Liverpool’s gold dust - a player that has captained the side, one approaching five years at Anfield - to sidestep an uncomfortable situation.


The timing of the midfielder’s all-round delivery on Sunday was impeccable considering the next fixture for the Merseysiders. On Friday, he will return to the Emirates as an opposing player for the first time since taking the “hardest decision” to depart in the summer in order to “make big strides forward.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain, his own biggest critic, is the first to admit his six years under Arsene Wenger failed to paint a comprehensive picture of what he could offer.

Injuries and the struggle to deal with expectations - most of them self-directed - limited chances in a central role and the sameness of it all were contributing factors.

Moreover, as Arsenal prefer a more technical than aggressive approach, ‘Ox’ had to dilute his key strengths to bow to their stylistic methodology. He detailed as much four years ago in a feature for the club’s official website. “I’ve grown up playing in central midfield more, and I think my natural game is about coming inside from wide,” the Southampton academy graduate noted.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, ArsenalGetty

“Sometimes when I play on the wing I have to remind myself to stay out wide because I tend to naturally drift in towards the ball. I try to get on the ball and make something happen.

“That’s usually dribbling with the ball, running at defenders, taking players on and trying to open teams up. I do like to have a shot. Arsenal are all about nice, intricate passing movements around the box, so if I shoot too much from outside the box without scoring the boss will have a go at me! I need to stick to the short passes, so I don’t shoot as much now.”

Those attributes mentioned above, which he had to funnel under Wenger, are encouraged and demanded by Klopp.

Oxlade-Chamberlain should drift in if he starts for Liverpool in a wide position, he should run at defenders, he should open teams up and he should shoot more often.

In September, Thierry Henry - one of the player’s idols - stated that he had been “watching Ox for a very long time and I still don’t know what he’s good at.”

Jurgen Klopp Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain unbelievable potentialPlaying Surface/Getty

Perhaps that’s because his fundamental, dynamic qualities were not allowed to flourish.

If the Arsenal legend has continued tracking the three-time FA Cup winner since the end of October, when he starred in a cameo against Huddersfield through to his powered display at Bournemouth over the weekend, he’d now have a much clearer idea of what Oxlade-Chamberlain excels at.

The “wonderful package” as Klopp described him “is like dynamite. Aggressive in the most positive way. Front foot always. Looking to attack and create.

"These performances come because of how good his attitude is in training at Melwood. He has the highest quality in everything he does; sometimes I think he is the last to realise this.”

That bit of information at the end - the awareness of his own brilliance - is something Wenger and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s father, Mark, have both alluded to and was evident on Sunday.

Despite his energetic, two-fold operation of stopping the opposition’s attacks and sparking Liverpool’s, he couldn’t believe he’d been named Man of the Match against Eddie Howe’s side.

In the last fixture before Christmas, in a “special occasion, full of emotion,” Oxlade-Chamberlain can surprise not just himself again, but Arsenal too.