Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 20 Midfielder Arsenal England
2013 has been…
After bursting onto the scene the season before last, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was more limited to appearances from the bench in 2012/13. Arsenal’s conclusion to the campaign was a roaring success and contributed, though ultimately fruitless in its own right, to the impetus shown by Arsene Wenger’s team during the opening months of 2013/14.
Despite a limited input last term he did start Arsenal’s first game of the new season but was injured in the opening day defeat to Aston Villa and has been a notable absentee since then. He’s become something of a forgotten man this season, his injury overshadowed by a resurgent Aaron Ramsey and the capture of Mesut Özil.
While the year as a whole hasn’t been the one Oxlade-Chamberlain might have expected, and certainly hasn’t been what was expected of him, he achieved something the rest of us – including most footballers – can only dream about.
England’s visit to Brazil in the summer saw Oxlade-Chamberlain, then just 19 years old, score an impressive goal at the Maracanã, a moment whose significance wasn’t lost on the teenager. Indeed, it was the crowning moment of a year in which he shone more for his country than for his club, albeit through little fault of his own.
His footballing father, Mark Chamberlain, famously missed the goal because he was asleep, but there’s no doubting which position he feels is his son’s best: off a striker, pulling the strings. Although he’s often deployed as a winger by Wenger, Oxlade-Chamberlain has had chances to play more centrally, even as a traditional central midfielder, and has taken them well.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has football intelligence beyond his years. His prevailing tendency is to go aggressively forwards and run at the opposition, but he has the awareness to retain possession and even sit deeper when the situation demands it. That allows him to be an option in the middle, but his wing play is as exciting as anyone’s when he’s in full flow.
He has great footwork that is usually effective, even if it doesn’t always look accomplished. His balance is fantastic and combines with a slice of invention to produce a few tricks and plenty of attacking threat. His touch ranges from delicate to heavy, but what he lacks in airbrushed perfection he makes up for with fearlessness, directness and boundless confidence.
Oxlade-Chamberlain passes and shoots well, for the most part, and has a good eye for goal. Most importantly, this is a player who seems to love every second he’s on the field. His smile is ever-present, his character infectious. He’s down-to-earth and fun-loving, traits most welcome in a young player making his way in a game growing less joyful.
As with all young versatile players there remains the concern that his flexibility will work against him rather than in his favour. However, it might be exactly what keeps him in Wenger’s plans for the time being.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s next challenge is to force his way into an Arsenal side that has developed around him while he’s been injured. The signing of Özil transformed the Gunners’ midfield in more ways than just a simple improvement, and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s return will be into a crowded, talented bunch determined to keep him out and with fitness on their side.
Taking on that task could be the making of the former Southampton youngster but it could just as easily prove the beginning of the process of his departure from the Emirates. It would take a true pessimist to bet against him, however, because he has all the characteristics of a modern midfield all-rounder. The polish will surely follow in due course but he will have his work cut out to cement a starting spot for the Gunners.
But there really is only one target that should be in mind for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Much has been made of Andros Townsend’s England bow in October and of another congested pecking order for the Arsenal man to contend with. Certainly his position is better served than some, and being a trusted Roy Hodgson favourite could be the difference between more headlines in Brazil and the fading memories from the Maracanã in 2013.
"It was all going so well, England caps and an international goal, a place in Arsenal's first team secure after a natural dip in form and recovery while Premier League realities had set in. This season was going to be a good one that led straight into a World Cup summer. The injury has put everything on hold and he needs to forget about Brazil and concentrate solely on getting his fitness and then form back when recovered." - David Hartrick, IBWM
"Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was involved in a goal every 265 minutes last season; more regularly than Andros Townsend and Antonio Valencia." - Opta
C- World Cup must be the only objective