Twelve months ago it was Henryk Mkhitaryan at Manchester United; this year it’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Liverpool. You guessed it: two expensive summer buys struggling to get a place in the starting line-up.
They were both on the field at Anfield on Saturday, linked by a similar experience, yet clearly on different ends of the spectrum.
It should not be so surprising that a player that only arrived on deadline day, and that has already departed for international duty twice since, would not have cracked a strong starting line up yet, but it’s quite telling of the impatient nature of the game that credentials and value are questioned so quickly.
While it’s true that some players settle in right away it should come as no shock that a new player might take a while to adjust to new teammates, new tactics and a new manager. And that’s before we get into all the issues that can come from moving to a new city or, in some cases, a new country.
Of course, a year on, Mkhitaryan is one of the first names on Jose Mourinho’s team sheet and he took his place from the start on Saturday. His anonymous Anfield showing notwithstanding, his form this season – five assists already – is proof positive that patience may very well be a virtue, even in football.
That might yet prove true for Liverpool left back Alberto Moreno, another player who’s fortunes have remarkably turned over the last 12 months. If anything, Moreno’s plight was even much worse, confined to a permanent spot on the bench all last season – only two Premier League starts to his name – as his place was taken by a right footed midfield player.
Yet, Moreno is definitely back in favor now, even keeping the newly acquired Andrew Robertson out of the picture and starting all but two of Liverpool’s eight Premier League matches this season. There was talk of his departure in the summer – it seemed a foregone conclusion – but it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere right now.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has had to be patient too and is yet to start a Premier League game for his new club. He featured for just the last thirteen minutes on Saturday, but his lively cameo suggests that patience may pay off sooner rather than later – especially given Liverpool’s schedule and with Sadio Mane out injured for another five weeks or so.
Not so clear is the case of Victor Lindelof, another big money arrival at United. The big Swedish defender also came on late at Anfield, his first Premier League appearance, but the fact that Mourinho opted to leave him out of his starting XI despite losing Eric Bailly to injury suggests he may need to tarry a while longer. Then again, perhaps this usually intense, high profile derby wasn’t the best place for a Premier League debut.
Still, Mourinho didn’t spend 35 million Euros to bring him to Old Trafford for no reason. Like Mkhitaryan, there’s a very good chance he’ll eventually find his feet and claim his place in Mourinho’s first team.
All he needs is time – and patience.