Following his first eye-catching performance since returning from a year on the sidelines, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was in a buoyant mood. The Liverpool midfielder scored two of the team’s four goals against Genk. Ox’s opener was a well-struck grounder, angling deftly out of reach of the Belgian side’s goalkeeper and into the net. The second goal was a chip/lob, outside of the boot dipper, over the goalie, banking off the underside of the crossbar and in. Experience the majesty.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has been on the slow road back into action this season. A promising pre-season brought ideas of Ox as an immediate asset in Jürgen Klopp’s first team but the manager has largely truncated the player’s minutes.
After his assured display at Genk, that may be about to change. Ox has been working diligently for months to prove his fitness and his worth to the team. He showed on Wednesday night that forward drive and creativity at speed make him a threat in Liverpool’s midfield.
Oxlade-Chamberlain missed the entirety of Liverpool’s Champions League success last season. Now, having just taken a significant step towards getting into Liverpool’s Ballon d’Or Club next year, and with the promise of a bright future splayed out before him, Ox is just happy to be living his passion again.
“I’ve definitely missed it,” Oxlade-Chamberlain said. “It’s nice to be back out there. It’s a special tournament to play in, a competition we all grew up wanting to play in one day.
“It was nice to be back out there [after] seeing the boys do so well in it last year. I was fortunate enough to get back involved on the bench for the big day in the final and watch the boys bring it home.
“It’s inspirational, it’s something I’ve wanted to get back to do. It’s just nice to be back in the starting line-up and try to put in a performance to help the team. To get a few goals was a bonus.”
There will be plenty of performance nuances that Ox will need to sort out in the coming weeks if he wants to become a consistent presence in Klopp’s starting XI. But the manager would surely like to call on Oxlade-Chamberlain’s skillset as often as possible heading into the busy holiday season.
I’m thinking he starts on the bench against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday with a fate that’s tied to the flux of the match. But I love being wrong.