Arsene Wenger believes Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain faces a pivotal season in his development after a series of injuries have hampered his progression over the past few seasons, and has talked up the ability of the youngster who he feels can go on to do great things (via Arsenal.com).
Arsenal won the final game of their US tour, beating Chivas Guadalajara 3-1. Goals from Rob Holding, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chuba Akpom were enough to down the Mexican side. The highlight of the game though, was Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal which was a wonderfully taken solo effort.
Wenger spoke up the season in hand for the England international as he hopes to have a better campaign than in 2015/2016.
“It’s a very important season for him. He has been out for a long, long time. He has been injured and did not go to the European Championship, like he should have done if he had been fit.
“That’s why I’m cautious with him. I gave him 45 minutes [against MLS All-Stars], now 70 minutes. I hope I can get him through and fit for the start of the season,” Wenger told the media.
This caps off a successful preseason tour of the US for Oxlade-Chamberlain who impressed in Arsenal’s other games against the MLS Allstars and Lens – the latter of which he scored a delightful chipped equalizer.
The former Southampton man’s talent was always there, but the 22-year-old has been known to be inconsistent and has struggled with many injuries in recent seasons, while some fans believe he should be adding more final product to his game. The Arsenal boss believes The Ox just needs to believe in himself to realize his immense potential.
“[He gives us] power, penetration. He has it all, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It’s difficult what he doesn’t have – that’s why I would like him to get to the level he can go to,” Wenger added.
“Maybe he doesn’t completely believe himself how good he can be and that’s the final step for him.”
If Oxlade-Chamberlain finds some consistency and improves on his decision making – which seems to be the case in preseason so far – he’ll be making a strong case for a start against Liverpool in the opening weekend. The pressure is on especially with rumours of Arsenal pursuing Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez which seem to have spurred on the England international.
Oxlade-Chamberlain showed glimpses of his potential throughout his five years at the club so far but now, needs to deliver on a consistent basis if he wants to consolidate a place in the starting eleven. At his best, Oxlade-Chamberlain is an explosive player who can create something out of nothing. Arsenal could definitely use a player like that in their quest for a first league title since 2004.
Another Englishman who impressed was Rob Holding. Starting in only his second game for the club, the former Bolton man capped off a solid defensive display with a debut goal, pleasing Wenger in the process.
“I am impressed by his performances and by his capacity to adapt very quickly to a higher level. He shows intelligence, composure, character and it’s impressive. You do not see that often,” Wenger said.
Arsenal’s next preseason game sees them travel to Norway where they face Viking FK this Friday, just two days before a friendly with Manchester City – the final game of Arsenal’s preseason preparations.