How Klopp Transformed the Ox

It wasn't so long ago that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was resigned to being a bit-part player at Arsenal and many wondered if he would ever fulfil the potential that prompted Arsene Wenger to part with £15m for his services back in 2011.

At the time, ‘the Ox’ was still 18 years old and the world naturally assumed that he would need time to develop; North London was seen as the perfect environment for that to happen. After all, Wenger had built a reputation for unlocking potential in young talent. However, things never quite panned out as expected and the midfielder never fully established himself as a first-team player at the Emirates.

It, therefore, came as a bit of a surprise when Jurgen Klopp decided to take a £35m chance on a player that many saw as surplus to the Gunner’s requirements. But, like Wenger before him, Klopp has developed a habit of bringing the best out of his players. Still only 24 years old, Oxlade-Chamberlain already looks quicker, stronger, and more motivated than he did in his last years at Arsenal.

The Anfield boss did not rush him into the team, preferring instead to give him time to become accustomed to the Liverpool way and to settle into life on Merseyside. This patience began to pay off on Boxing Day when he played a key role, scoring in the Red’s 5-0 destruction of Swansea at Anfield.

Since then, he has looked like a different player from the one that was often used as an impact substitute under Wenger. He now looks like a player that loves playing football and is confident and hungry to succeed. He has made 20 appearances including eight starts, contributing three goals, and three assists. The last time he scored three goals or more in a season, he was still playing for Southampton in League One. And, with the departure of Philippe Coutinho, he looks set to feature more often in 2018.

As a result, Oxlade-Chamberlain has been heavily-backed with Oddschecker to make the England squad that will travel to Russia for the World Cup this summer. His recent performance in Liverpool’s 4-3 win over league leaders Manchester City has further boosted his chances of adding to the 30 caps that he has already picked up.

The Portsmouth-born attacker can still be backed at around evens to make the plane to Russia but that price is sure to drop if he continues to perform at his current level. In fact, after being axed by the England boss back in November, he could end up being one of the first names on Gareth Southgate’s team sheet.