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 By Steven Kelly

Worry over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's nightmare start at Liverpool

Not every big signing can hit the ground running like Mohammed Salah has done at Liverpool. Despite doubts about his finishing, with six goals by the end of September and a consistent attacking threat, the Egyptian is one of the standout performers for the Reds thus far.

For their other major signing, £40 million man Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, it has been a different story.

It's always difficult for any player that moves during the final days of the transfer window. They've spent the summer training with another manager and squad -- then have to swiftly come to terms with a new environment.

The bigger the fee the less likely fans will take that upheaval into account. It would be unfair to assess the former Arsenal man on his recent, negligible contribution to both club and country but it would also be blinkered to deny there aren't concerns.

These may be the mere fruition of doubts which existed from day one. It was frustrating that Liverpool paid so much money for a player in the final year of his contract, as normally that's a chance to pick up a bargain.

Oxlade-Chamberlain had rarely set the football world alight and was known for playing in positions where Liverpool already seemed strong.

Jurgen Klopp has chosen to start him in one match so far; the almost meaningless Carabao Cup defeat at Leicester -- and he was poor. It felt like a training game for Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian was withdrawn at half time and any hope of Liverpool winning went with him.

He subsequently scored three superb goals in three games, boosting the club's fragile mentality and signalling renewed hope of future improvement.

For Oxlade-Chamberlain the reverse was true. He went straight back to the bench and has only appeared briefly since.

Even the international break couldn't bring respite. Chosen for England against Slovenia, he was ignominiously hauled off after an hour and wasn't even seen in the Sunday follow-up in Lithuania.

The comparison with Liverpool's other new boy was stark. Salah has almost singlehandedly dragged Egypt into their first World Cup finals for 28 years, scoring twice against Congo and cementing his position as a national hero.

If you thought things couldn't be any worse for Oxlade-Chamberlain, think again. Few Liverpool fans were impressed by the player's final outing for Arsenal, particularly since they had a ringside seat for the Reds' 4-0 thrashing of the Londoners in August.

Since that day, Liverpool have stumbled somewhat while results for his former club -- thought to already be done and dusted for season 2017-18 -- perked up considerably. Only a fool could think the situations were connected but if it should continue throughout October more malicious voices will make themselves heard.

As if everything wasn't going against the player already, the initial reaction to the move was mainly one of concern that Liverpool hadn't used his transfer money to strengthen the one area that needed it -- defence.

None of which is the player's fault obviously, and he's been given little opportunity to convince fans of the logic behind his purchase since.

The troubling aspect is that it's hard to see where he will get the chance to exhibit his skills, which should anyone have forgotten were enough for continual selection by Arsene Wenger and successive England coaches.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has endured a poor start to life at Liverpool.

Criticism of the Liverpool manager, whoever he may be, is generally considered beyond the pale unless his results truly stink -- and Klopp's don't.

The German is "celebrating" his second anniversary at the helm and it's being pushed hard in various quarters that there are a lot more positives than negatives.

A lack of defensive recruits and the continual leaking of goals has been his one major drawback, with the Oxlade-Chamberlain fee dragged into the debate more than once.

More game time and a chance to impress would certainly help the player, but against which opponent? Liverpool need wins and two big Premier League challenges lie in wait with Manchester United at home and Tottenham away.

Neither game seems logical for an appearance by a struggling player especially when Salah, the occupant of the right wing role, is doing so well.

Even the upcoming Champions League match at Maribor is questionable, as the Reds can't afford to drop any more points especially against the weakest team in the group.

Oxlade-Chamberlain's plight looks set to continue and with Adam Lallana nearing a return from injury, his chances could become even more limited.

Absolutely everything has been stacked against him from the off. This may be one of those times where player and fans need to be patient and his purchase regarded as one for the future rather than the present.

It still doesn't alter the fact that Liverpool are no longer regarded as one of football's massive spenders, and £40m for a peripheral figure is increasingly being seen as frivolous.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.


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