Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: A difficult beginning but a transfer gamble worth taking - by Jason Harris
For all the talking points in football, nothing gets the emotions flowing like a good old-fashioned discussion about transfers.
It is always something that starts vigorous debate between passionate football fans all over the world and admittedly, is always a bit of fun to see which ‘world beater’ the club is linked to in the morning papers, even though some names should be taken with a grain of salt.
When a certain player is consistently linked to the club, the excitement among the fanbase level builds, YouTube videos are found of their best work, and attention turns to where they fit in to the set up.
From the shop window they look all shiny, fresh and new, but it is only when you get to scratch the surface that you realise whether the new purchase has just what it takes to fit in to the club.
Contrary to common opinion, no club gets it right 100% of the time.
For every Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane or Mo Salah who are an instant success, there is an Andy Carroll, El Hadji Diouf, Bruno Cheyrou, Robbie Keane, Alberto Aquilani or Stewart Downing who for whatever reason, just do not adapt and quickly earn the wrath of the fanbase.
It may be an unusual thing to feel sympathetic over a plight of a footballer earning thousands of pounds a week, but currently there is a player in the current squad who deserves a bit of heat taken of his shoulders.
That player is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Signed in late August for a figure around the £40million mark from Arsenal, it is fair to say that the start of his Reds career has been something of a slow burner.
Manager Jurgen Klopp is many things to many people, but one quality that undeniably stands out is loyalty. Anyone who has watched the Reds closely over his reign will say he is remarkably loyal to the players he inherited a couple of seasons ago.
Unless you are a unique talent like Mane or Salah, or a player brought in for a specific purpose like Joel Matip, you often have to bide your time waiting for a opportunity.
The Reds were clicking quite nicely at the end of August when Oxlade-Chamberlain arrived at the club, so naturally his early stages were spent on the substitutes bench.
However, as time has gone by and the Reds have gone through a tough patch,"the Ox" has remained on the periphery, in all playing just 144 minutes in the league in six substitute appearances, and 34 minutes in two sub appearances in the Champions League.
His only start came against Leicester in the League Cup where he flattered to deceive, although it has to be said he was not on his own on that occasion.
Oxlade-Chamberlain turned down the advances from Chelsea who were looking to use him in a wing back role, similar to what he was playing in the latter stages of his Arsenal career. His whole reasoning for coming to the club was to return to his preferred position of central midfield.
While not being known as a goalscorer (having only scored 18 goals in his senior club career), his prime attributes are his vision, power and technical ability from the middle of the pitch, something that we have lacked at times, especially against stubborn opponents with a packed defence.
The big question relating to the signing of Oxlade-Chamberlain is: Will he become a first team regular in the short term?
On face value alone and looking at the amount that we paid for him, the answer would normally be a resounding yes. However, it is not so easy with the makeup of this team, especially when you factor in that Adam Lallana is still to return from injury.
As stated previously, Klopp is a big one for his tried and tested methods, so it shouldn't be looked on as a slight on Oxlade Chamberlain's overall ability.
There will naturally be those among the fanbase questioning the purchase of the former Gunner and those concerns are valid, but personally I agree with the signing and there are a couple of reasons why.
For years, we as fans have bemoaned the lack of quality of our bench compared to our main rivals and the lack of options have been there for all to see.
You are always going to get injuries and suspensions throughout a season and you need your whole squad to play a role if you want to achieve something special.
The lack of depth was something that hit the Reds hard at the start of the year when key players were missing through injury (Coutinho and Matip) and international duty (Mane).
Having someone who has made nearly 200 senior appearances for club and country in reserve is worth its weight in gold, and Oxlade-Chamberlain has already shown against Man United and Maribor he can make a very important impact in this role.
As he grows more comfortable and confident, I see no reason why he cannot challenge one of the incumbents for a consistent regular berth. Sure, it is not ideal spending that sort of money on a player who is not guaranteed a starting berth at this point of time, however the transfer market is completely out of control and not showing any signs of returning to normality any time soon.
Sadly, long gone are the days where you can pay in the mid £20 million range for a talent like Torres or Suarez. You simply have to pay the going rate for a talented player, otherwise you simply miss out and as a club we have been there too many times to count.
Having weighed up all the positives and negatives of the signing, I am confident that Oxlade-Chamberlain will eventually turn out to be success at the club.
The positive thing is that Oxlade-Chamberlain has kept his head up and while the midfielder must be frustrated internally, publicly he has presented a positive front, while acknowledging he has to learn the Klopp gameplan in full.
Despite not coming to the club with the fanfare of Oxlade-Chamberlain, another new signing Andy Robertson is in the same boat, having made just three appearances for the club, two of them coming in the league.
His debut performance against Crystal Palace really caught the eye, but Klopp's preference to Alberto Moreno has seen him on the periphery for the most part of the campaign.
While being a improved performer on the last few seasons, I'm certainly not getting carried away with Moreno's early season form and would love to see Robertson come into the equation on a much more regular basis.
For both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Robertson, they will just have to keep putting in the hard work on the training pitch and if they do that, the opportunities will eventually come their way.