By Alex Kaye
Numerous players in our current squad have had their Arsenal careers blighted by injuries, with their performance levels suffering during certain periods as a result. Immediately, the names of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott spring to mind. All four are players that I like to varying degrees and I doubt there are many who would want any of them to leave the club at this stage.
However, all of these players at one time or another have divided the Arsenal fan-base through their performances. I will admit to having my doubts over one or two of them in terms of their ability to be regular starters in our side. However, during periods of sustained fitness they have all shown they merit a place in the squad at the very least.
One player I haven’t mentioned is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Arsenal fans don’t seem to recognise the impact injuries have had on his career so far and I believe this explains some of the negativity from sections of our community. I am a huge fan of the Ox but I admit that right now he isn’t fulfilling his potential. His statistics are very poor and his lack of end product is a genuine cause for concern.
Even so, I have been horrified by the vitriol thrown his way by some of our own fans; a few days ago on twitter I read an Arsenal fan wanted “that c**t out of the club”. This is just one example among many and that reaction makes no sense to me. I could understand such sentiment towards a player who wasn’t trying but that simply isn’t the case. Yes, the Ox gives the ball away more than he should and often in dangerous areas but that doesn’t mean he isn’t trying to do the right things!
There are clearly still kinks in his game that he needs to iron out but it’s very difficult to do that when your time on the training pitch is consistently cut short by injuries. The Ox sustained his first injury in October 2012 and since then he has spent a total of 348 days on the treatment table; almost an entire calendar year! The knee injury he picked up in January 2014 kept him out for 143 days and since then he has picked up 6 injuries, which have kept him out for between 25-48 days each time (stats courtesy of Transfermarkt).
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Anyone who has played football at a decent level knows you need a sustained period of game-time after a long-term injury to come back to your level. The Ox has not had that and his performances are suffering as a result.
My message is simple. Stop the hate, get behind him and the performances will come. The potential is there and remember, he’s only 22! Most players don’t show consistently good form until they turn 24-25. Patience.