The 2015/16 season has arrived, is under way and is into Matchweek Two. In the build up to the season you couldn’t move without bumping into someone who had a theory or prediction of the drama that we will have been treated to by the 15th of May 2016. The most anticipated of prophecies is who will win the Premier League. Chelsea will be right up there despite their shaky start against Swansea last week. I think Arsenal will be their biggest challengers and ironically they also struggled to get off to a good start with a loss at the hands of West Ham. A player who will be very important for the Gunners will be Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Chamberlain arrived at the North-London club in 2011 aged 17 after an immensely promising season at Southampton during the 2010/11 season. The teenager scored two goals in his first three appearances to make good on the faith that Arsene Wenger had in him to bring him to the club.
Right from the off, Chamberlain has stood out due to his pace and drive which can be perfectly encapsulated with a mazy run that he embarked upon against Bayern Munich in the Champions League last season. He received the ball on the halfway line and proceeded to evade four players before Bastian Schweinsteiger fouled him on the edge of the box. After the game Pep Guardiola was very articulate in his praise in his of the English winger.
In order for Chamberlain’s skill to be fully optimized it is necessary to take a look at Arsenal’s performance against West Ham on Sunday. It was a game where, had a few changes been made then a completely different fixture would’ve been on show. Slaven Bilic’s team started with a 4-4-2 featuring a midfield diamond with 16 year-old, Reece Oxford acting as the anchor.
West Ham’s formation effectively served as a blockade to stop the Gunner’s free-flowing football and disrupt their natural way of playing. Off the ball the Hammers played with a midfield five with one of their strikers dropping in to help out with defence. The weakness with this system is the vulnerability that is left on the flanks. This should have been an opportunity for Arsenal to exploit with their strength out wide with Cazorla and of course Chamberlain.
The issue is Arsene Wenger told Chamberlain told to come inside to fetch the ball. This created less opportunity for his natural pace and forcefulness to thrive. Despite the flawed instructions he received from his manager, Chambo made a total of 74 touches and looked most lively when in wide areas.
Arsenal set up with a 4-2-3-1 in order to account for the large amount of midfielders that are in the squad. Six midfielders were named in the matchday squad with five starting. To address the problem of Arsenal’s form and maximization of Chamberlain’s abilities a change-up in formation is necessary. A system wherein the wings have more importance would go down well. A 4-3-3 with 2 holding midfielders, an attacking midfielder and then the forwards ahead of them.
This way Chamberlain will be able to play in a wider position where his aforementioned pace and drive will be more effective. When the winger is played centrally his impact is marginalized and this season he will need to play to the maximum of his abilities for Arsenal to achieve on any or all platforms.
Before the beginning of the season Arsenal Media interviewed the players regarding who they each thought would be the most influential throughout the whole season. You would expect them to say Alexis Sanchez due to his brilliance in front of goal and work ethic but the majority said they thought Alex Oxlade Chamberlain would be their most important player. Even he said so!
Arsenal got their season off to a good start against Chelsea in the Community Shield which they were eligible to play in after their second consecutive FA Cup victory. The pre-season victory was sealed by Chamberlain when he struck the winner in the 24th minute. His goal against the Blues was of a high order and shows the quality that he has.
In Arsenal’s attempt this season to challenge for the Premier League and to replicate their success in the FA Cup Chamberlain will crucial, but only if he is utilized in the right system. Arsene Wenger needs to use last week’s disappointment at home against West Ham to learn from his mistakes. Chambo’s power, pace and drive that is so pivotal in his game will become so important for the Gunners this season that they will rely on the 22 year old to win games in their fight for silverware.
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