We have seen many cases of promising young English players fail to live up to high expectations over the last two decades. Whether it was due to injuries – sad stories of Dean Ashton and Michael Johnson spring to mind – or their inability to progress from an exciting talent to a top player (hello, David Bentley and Stephen Hughes). In fact, if there is an English player that has been successful from the very beginning and still today, it’s Wayne Rooney.
That’s why the burden lying on the back of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a lot heavier than any of us can imagine. Some might think that the comparison between The Ox and Rooney is far-fetched – by the age of 22 Rooney had won both the Premier League and Champions League (via Talksport) – but I believe it’s one that makes the most sense.
Just like Rooney, The Ox is the embodiment of physical power, a human tank that can either drill a hole in the opponents’ defence or fire a long-range projectile into the back of the net. He can make things happen out of nothing, score a goal against the run of play and keep the opponents on the back foot. Yes, there are still too many situations where you feel he’s coming up short, but we can be very happy with his performances over this preseason.
He looks fired up, strong and confident that things will go his way. The way he was destroying Lyon’s defence from counter-attacks and linking up with Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil and Olivier Giroud suggests the mouth-watering prospect of our attacking game next season. We do after all have three players in the top 15 favourites for Golden Boot according to Betfair, so there’s certainly the opportunity to feed our hungry forwards not to mention getting on the scoresheet himelf. The final product – or lack of it – is something that stands out as the real flaw in his game but there are signs that it’s going to change in the forthcoming season.
The English youngster has already had some great games for Arsenal – against AC Milan in the Champions League 2011-12, Manchester United in the league 2011-12, Liverpool in FA Cup 2013-14 and Manchester United FA Cup 2014-15 respectively – but he has to show that he can do it on a regular basis.
In order to do so, Arsene Wenger should play Ox to his strengths. His ability to stretch the opponents’ defence makes him a natural choice for our right wing. With Hector Bellerin’s extraterrestrial pace supporting him, Ox might reach double-digits for goals and assists for the first time which is something his potential deserves. That young combination did a great job in our 2:0 victory at the Etihad last term so there is no reason why they shouldn’t blossom together down that right flank.
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Finally, Ox needs an injury-free season. He has featured in less than a half matches in the last two seasons (via whoscored.com) and the main reason for that were injuries.
All-in-all, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a special player. After all, you can’t find too many players that have seen both their captain and fans openly disagreeing with the boss when being substituted by an experienced international in their very first season at the club – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has already been there!
ARSENE, RELEASE THE OX!