Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain spent six seasons at Arsenal. Six seasons where the Gunners failed to advance past the Round of 16 in the Champions League. Last night, for Liverpool, he made his first appearance in the quarter finals of Europe’s top cup competition.
He made a massive difference, scoring a Gerrard-esque hammer blow from distance that put Liverpool two up on Manchester City. He made a difference in his own end, too, helping to double up Leroy Sané on the wing and limit City’s chances.
“It was extraordinary,” he said afterwards, and while he might have been forgiven talking about his own performance in such terms, the former Arsenal man was instead focused on the crowd and atmosphere that helped to inspire that standout performance.
“I’ve never played in anything like that and having an atmosphere like that was incredible. It was something that will stay with me forever. Hendo was warning me about that before, and he said, ‘wait until you see it tonight.’”
“I kind of knew what he meant, but until you’re out there and you see what the fans are doing and how much passion there was... it’s just incredible to be part of, and it was a really good performance from the boys both defensively and attacking.”
Having made the switch to Anfield last summer in order to play for Jürgen Klopp and to get a chance at taking on a more central role, something the 24-year-old has always wanted, it’s fair to say looking back now that it was the right move.
Doubts about both the club’s decision to spend £35M on a player who never seemed to quite live up to his promise at Arsenal and doubts about Oxlade-Chamberlain’s belief that Anfield offered him his best chance at delivering on that now seem foolish.
In the big matches, against the toughest opponents, the player’s all-action approach to midfield and willingness to run tirelessly in both attack and defence have made him a key part of Klopp’s squad.
And that squad are now favourites both to advance to the Champions League semi finals this season and to qualify for the competition again next year with their place in the top four looking secure. The job, though, isn’t done yet—in the league or Europe.
“We’re going to have to defend really well and attack as well,” Oxlade-Chamberlain added as he looked ahead to next Tuesday. “It was good that we kept a clean sheet tonight and if we can go there and nick a goal it stands us in good stead.”