LIVERPOOL

Liverpool: "Dumb" to compare fit-again Oxlade-Chamberlain to best form - Klopp

Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp is delighted to have Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back in training but is realistic about the 27-year-old's recovery.

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'Really dumb' to compare fit-again Oxlade-Chamberlain to his best form – Klopp

Jürgen Klopp claims Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will always be "an outstanding player" but suggested any expectation for the Liverpool midfielder to immediately rediscover his best form following injury is "really dumb".

The former Arsenal man missed the majority of the 2018-19 season, playing only twice in the Premier League, following a serious knee injury sustained in the prior campaign's Champions League semi-finals.

Oxlade-Chamberlain's previously impressive form was widely considered to be somewhat steadier last term as he played a part in Liverpool's title success, and another knee blow in August has delayed his involvement in 2020-21.

Klopp backs "difference-maker" Oxlade-Chamberlain

But Klopp considered Oxlade-Chamberlain's early 2018 form "the best moment of [his] career" and so disapproves of ranking last season's performances against that stretch.

"I don't understand these kinds of discussions," Klopp said on Friday, with Oxlade-Chamberlain the chief topic of discussion following his return to training.

"You have to be injured yourself once in your life to understand how difficult it is to find everything completely natural and normal again after that.

"It's good for my players that I had injuries, that I know that; there's no time, no rush or whatever.

"In training, what Ox did so far, you see his quality immediately, immediately. He's a difference-maker, you can see that.

"How long you can do that in a game depends on your fitness level. Your fitness level depends on how many sessions you had, how many games you had before.

"Being in the best moment of your career and being compared with that after coming back from your injury is a really dumb thing to do. 'Oh, he's not that good anymore'? I have no time for that.

"Ox is an outstanding player, an outstanding player. He was always, he will always be. Did he play always perfectly well? No. But he had a few really good games and helped us a lot.

"The longer he can stay without injury, the better he will be. That's how it is. This time we are really confident we can do that until the end of his career."

Oxlade-Chamberlain played more and scored more in 2019-20 than in 2017-18

England international Oxlade-Chamberlain played eight more league minutes last season than in 2017-18 and actually provided more of a goal threat as Liverpool won the championship.

He scored four goals, up from three, from marginally more shots (40 versus 38), albeit he hit the target less often (10 shots, down from 15).

It was in terms of Oxlade-Chamberlain's creativity that there was a clear decline, however, providing just a single assist after supplying seven in his only previous full season in a Reds shirt.

He created half as many chances last term (17 versus 34) and none of them qualified as big chances, according to Opta (versus four previously).

Indeed, besides goalscoring, Oxlade-Chamberlain's numbers were slightly down across the board, with fewer touches, dribbles, duels and recoveries despite the comparable pitch time.

But Klopp needs no reminder of the player's talent. "If a Liverpool supporter forgot how good Ox is... my English is not good enough to tell that," he said. "I'm just happy that he's here again.

"[He has] the speed, the technique, the combination of both, right foot, left foot, all this kind of stuff, can play different positions, has played for us different positions, scores goals.

"So, when he's finally playing - I don't know if that's this week or next week, a week later - it's a big plus for us."

Liverpool feel benefit of Oxlade-Chamberlain training return, says Klopp

Indeed, Klopp feels Liverpool have already benefited from having Oxlade-Chamberlain back in training, even if he is yet to feature.

"When Ox joins part of team training again, everybody gets the benefit of that," the manager said. "That's the way he is.

"You don't know that you miss him, because he's not there for a long time, but the moment he comes in the gym with the players, it's, 'Oh, you're right, it's much better when he's here'. That's Ox."