Saturday 7 December 2019

'Losing Coutinho shouldn't affect Liverpool at all'

Oxlade-Chamberlain backs Reds to prosper without Brazilian talisman - starting against City, writes Chris Bascombe

Liverpool defender Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Liverpool defender Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

In his brief time at Liverpool, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has proven himself a capable defensive wingman and reassuring attacking presence. Never mind on the pitch. His interviews demonstrate this versatility.

At the peak of Barcelona's revived move for Philippe Coutinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain offered a protective arm on the shoulder when a post-match TV interviewer aimed one probing question too many at the Brazilian.

Today, with Coutinho's portrait now eased to the former players' gallery, Oxlade-Chamberlain is where he is most comfortable; on the offensive - intolerant of the view that the No 10's departure will cause an Anfield deterioration similar to that when Luis Suarez moved to the Nou Camp.

"I've got every respect for Phil and his decisions, I wish him all the best but he is not in my thoughts right now," he said. "He can't affect the score versus Manchester City. I'm more concerned about what I can do, what Mo [Salah] can do, what Sadio [Mane] can do, what whoever is playing will do because we are the boys now that will get the right result for the club.

"I haven't really even thought about Phil leaving. You pay it attention and you realise it happens but you can't start thinking, 'What are we going to do now that Phil is not here?' It can't be that at all. It's business as usual.

"When Phil wasn't playing in the team for some games we still played great football and we still have amazing players who can score goals - the likes of Mo, Sadio, Roberto, everyone else. We have goals and creativity all over the team. Obviously Phil added to that, there is no doubt. The fact is he has gone, now we have to think, 'What have we got that is going to get the job done?'"


Liverpool have been here before, not only when Suarez was sold in 2014, but after Fernando Torres left in 2011 and Xabi Alonso in 2009. Their sales left deep scars which needed several transfer windows to heal. But Oxlade-Chamberlain says the club are equipped to deal with their latest significant loss.

"I have every faith in the boys that we just move on now. I don't think it should affect us at all," he said. "At a massive club like Liverpool people are going to come and go. It is our job to keep the wheels moving and keep the momentum going. He was an amazing player and he did great things for Liverpool. You want as many good players as you can. But that's football, that's the business that we are in. People come, people go. Great players will leave clubs and the clubs will bring in great players.

"We have just brought in Virgil [Van Dijk] and what an amazing addition he has been in the short time he has been here. He has brought that air of confidence and his persona. That has been a big lift for us. I can only talk for myself. When a big player leaves it is what it is. You're at a big club like Liverpool, another big player will come in the future. That is the way football works. You just have to get on with it."

Jurgen Klopp is being urged to reinvest the £142 million from the Coutinho sale immediately, but signings such as Oxlade-Chamberlain himself mean that the mass spending spree that followed Suarez's sale - Liverpool signed eight players the summer he was sold for £75 million - will not be repeated.


Having arrived from Arsenal in August visibly short of confidence, Oxlade-Chamberlain's stature has grown to the point where it would be a surprise if he did not start in what might have been Coutinho's role against City on Sunday. "I expected there would be a bedding-in period," he said.

"Of course when you come somewhere you want to hit the ground running and play as much as you want, have people talking as positively as possible as early as possible. I knew there was a chance that might not happen so maybe when it wasn't I was ready for that. I was just focused on how I can keep improving."

Subtle variances between Klopp and Arsene Wenger's style meant acclimatisation was inevitable. When comparing the two, the 24-year-old is eager to emphasise he is suggesting they are 'different' rather than either is 'better'.

"The same thing in different ways," he says. "Liverpool and Arsenal are both top clubs and have been at the top of English football history for years so the drop-offs aren't massive - they are both up there for a reason. The biggest thing I've had to learn is how this manager likes to stop situations at source and how he likes to attack is slightly different to my manager before.

"I was in certain habits and certain things became second nature to me and in football it is all about instinct. You train and train a certain thing so when you are in that situation you don't think about it.

"It just might be a simple trigger when something happens and the defence passes to that player and the ball is slightly behind him. That is your cue to go and press. At your previous club you might not even look into that.

"I have about 100 different things but it is all those adding up. When a team is in sync to do what a manager wants and you have one player who has come in and is doing it slightly different, it breaks the whole chain and it doesn't work for everyone.

"We press high and if one person is not doing it right - even if it is small - it makes everyone's work a waste of time. Just little things like that I had to learn. It can take some time."

So far, Anfield has been all Oxlade-Chamberlain wanted to be, Klopp's influence having the desired effect. "He picks out the good things and says where you have room for improvement," he said. "He's got great people skills. When you get that relationship with anyone, especially at a professional level, it makes work easy."

With Coutinho gone, the manager's protective arm will be accompanied by the necessity for further improvement. Oxlade-Chamberlain is sure Liverpool's squad will satisfy those demands. "It's an opportunity for me, just as it is for all the rest of the boys," he says. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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