Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been disappointingly underwhelming this season, and has once again failed to make that step up toward realising his potential. Arsene Wenger has spoken about the future of the stunted midfielder, suggesting that the 22-year-old’s eventual position may lie in midfield rather than on the wing, as reported by Goal.
“He has the attributes to play in central midfield, he has that important quality — a little surge to get out of pressure,” said Wenger.
“One of the things to get out of pressure is to have a little dribble to get away from the guy who closes you down and nobody more than Chamberlain has that.
“That is why he could be suited for the modern game to play in there because he has that capacity to get out of the pressure. He is really suited to be right-sided, box to box in a 4-3-3, he really fits in there.”
There is certainly evidence that he’s more suited to a central role, as he certainly boasts a number of traits that the box-to-box requires. That little “surge”, as Wenger puts it, is a trait the Ox shares with Jack Wilshere, who (when fit) plays the central role as well as anyone. The power and pace the Ox has means he can shield and protect the ball, before bursting away from opponents to start an attack. However, he’s still got a lot to learn about the central role.
Generally speaking, playing a central role requires more maturity and discipline than on the wings, and other members of your team are often more reliant on you. On the flank, if you neglect your defensive duties then you expose your full-back. In central midfield, fail to track your man or fall asleep for a moment and your team can instantly be split open.
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This is certainly somewhere the Ox needs to improve, as he’s often very sloppy in possession, losing concentration and misplacing even the simplest of passes. His mistakes have given away key goals in the past – like against Monaco in the Champions League last season – and that’s something he needs to kick from his game if he has a future in the Arsenal midfield.
He’s recently been linked with a move to Chelsea (via the Daily Star), and we need to keep faith in him if we want to avoid losing him to our rivals (if you can even call Chelsea that this season).
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We often expect more from the Ox because he’s been around for so long, but it’s important to remember he is only 22-years-old. There are obviously plenty of players who have matured and become world class at that age, but for the majority of players that’s just not the case.
He has all the physical attributes required to be truly world class, so hopefully with age he’ll develop the mental strength to match. He’s frustrated us hugely with his sub-par performances and lack of end product, but he has unquestionably talent and deserves our faith.