The £35m fee Liverpool paid for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is beginning to look less alarming, according to Didi Hamann, though he also feels the midfielder has much to prove after “stagnating” at Arsenal.
Hamann, who won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005, previously questioned the sense in sanctioning what is the joint-third most expensive transfer fee in the club’s history for a player Jurgen Klopp would not end up starting in the Premier League till November.
In recent weeks, however, the former Arsenal winger has steadily improved. Against Bournemouth, no Liverpool player created more chances than Oxlade-Chamberlain (4). The 4-0 win also saw the 24-year-old make six challenges, the most that evening.
It signals two attributes characteristic of Klopp’s preferred style of play, creativity and pressing, as well as a hint of promise for former Liverpool midfielder Hamann.
“I think [Oxlade-Chamberlain] has done OK,” he told Squawka.
“He didn’t play an awful lot when he first came to the club. He joined them later in the window so he wouldn’t have had an awful long time with the team, but I think lately he’s done well.”
The former German international also added that Oxlade-Chamberlain had been struggling to fulfil his potential at Arsenal: “I was very skeptical, I’ve got say, when he was signed for a lot of money, but I think in the last three games he’s shown his potential.
“He’s got to produce it on a weekly basis now because I think he stagnated at Arsenal and I don’t think he’s fulfilled his potential yet. He can be a very good player, but he’s got it to prove now.”
Just before Oxlade-Chamberlain moved on 31 August, Liverpool committed to paying over £48m for RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita next summer.
The 22-year-old Guinea national team talisman’s looming arrival leaves Oxlade-Chamberlain with it all to prove over the rest of the current campaign, as he himself signed in the hope of staking his claim for a central role.
But Hamann believes, should he maintain his recent level of performance, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s route to a midfield berth will not be completely blocked once Keita joins.
He added: “[Oxlade-Chamberlain] has got it to prove, but if he carries on the way he did in the last two-three games then I think he’ll be fine. He was brought in for a lot of money so I don’t think his place in the squad or at the club is at risk because the manager made a huge commitment by paying that amount of money for a player who had one year left on his contract.
“But there will be a lot more competition with Keita next year.”
Naby Keita worthy of Steven Gerrard’s iconic No.8 jersey?
Keita currently wears the No.8 shirt at Leipzig. As it happens, the same number is vacant at Liverpool, but its previous owner is one daunting act to follow.
On whether Keita is worthy of the task, Steven Gerrard’s former teammate, Hamann, said: “Either you retire the shirt… I’m not sure whether they’ve thought about it.
“Obviously it’s an iconic number for what Stevie [Gerrard] has done over the years for the club. [Keita] has potential. He’s a very good player. I think he’ll be a good addition to the club but then again, if you want, nobody’s probably worthy of that shirt because I don’t think we’ll see another Stevie in that shirt for years to come.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain is set to face his former club when Arsenal host Liverpool on Friday evening. A defeat would see the Reds concede their top-four spot to the Gunners before facing Swansea, Leicester and Burnley over their festive fixture run.