A year out of action has given Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fresh perspective.
Perspective on his own development before the serious knee injury he sustained in Liverpool’s Champions League tie with AS Roma at Anfield last April.
Perspective on the scope for improvement to fully fulfil his potential and reclaim a regular place in Jürgen Klopp’s starting XI in the seasons to come.
And perspective – perhaps unique – on the attitude and commitment contained in the Reds squad currently attempting to win both the Premier League and Champions League.
“Of course [I’m capable of better than before],” Oxlade-Chamberlain, who made his first-team return against Huddersfield Town on Friday night, told The Times.
“If I didn’t feel that, there wouldn’t be much point in coming back. I’ve got to believe that’s where I can go to. And I’m going to need to do that to get back into this team.
“I just think I was moving in the right direction. I was becoming more consistent but it was a short spell [of performance] and to be that [top] player you need a long period.”
Twelve frustrating months on the sidelines have given Oxlade-Chamberlain an unrivalled, detached view of the demands placed on Liverpool this season.
The 5-0 victory over Huddersfield lifted the Reds back above Manchester City at the summit of the Premier League, with two games remaining compared to the reigning champions’ three.
Thoughts have now switched to the much-anticipated Champions League semi-final against FC Barcelona, which gets under way at Camp Nou on Wednesday night.
And it’s the way Klopp and his players have dealt with the constancy of the schedule, the pressure to gain results, that has resonated with Oxlade-Chamberlain.
“The biggest thing for me this whole year, and I’ve said it to friends, is that when you’re removed from it you realise how big the pressure is on the boys – pressure to produce really good results, every week, in all types of competitions, in different countries,” said the 25-year-old.
“I’d be working hard at the club feeling I’d had a long day, then see the boys in the canteen, just back from a Champions League game in Italy or wherever, with their bags on their backs and they’re off to Bournemouth away.
“When you’re in it, you’re just in it. Removed, you realise how relentless it is. You get to hear the noise and everyone wants wins and wins and wins.
“And from the manager I’ve seen, however well the boys have done at the weekend, he’s the same exactly on the Sunday and Monday. He keeps demanding from the players. He keeps them there. You can see how he’s living it himself, the demands he puts on himself and how that oozes out [to everyone].
“Everyone understands what it means to play for Liverpool, what the fans demand – which is just giving your all for the club.
“I’m lucky to play with these boys. It’s not nice to miss out but it hasn’t been ‘bittersweet’, more sweet, really, seeing how well the team has done.”
The ovation Oxlade-Chamberlain received when he took to the pitch in the 73rd minute at Anfield on Friday said more than words ever could about his relationship with Reds supporters.
His return was almost capped by what Klopp later insisted would have been ‘Goal of the Season’ but the No.21’s shot from Mohamed Salah’s tee-up was blocked.
Big hugs for @Alex_OxChambo. 🤗❤ Great to have him back. 👊 https://t.co/NODoW97d9W— LFC (Liverpool FC (at 🏠)) 26th Apr 21:46
But what are the England international’s aims for the remainder of the campaign?
“The most important thing is I’d love Liverpool to achieve something really special,” he replied. “That comes before me. I’ve been out long enough not to worry too much about [personal objectives].”