Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: A career approaching a crossroads?
Arsenal have incredible squad depth, especially in midfield and it can be difficult for some of their younger players to breakthrough into the first team. One player that was linked with a move away during the summer was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The 23-year-old has been at the Emirates Stadium since 2011, but he has yet to become a regular in the first team for the Gunners. There have been a number of reasons for this, with the main one being the quality that exists within the squad. Arsene Wenger wants his side to play a free-flowing passing game, which requires talented midfielders. Therefore there are few opportunities for the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The former Southampton player has been given an excellent footballing education at Arsenal and will have benefited from training alongside some of the best players in his position, such as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. However, there comes a point in your career when you must start playing regularly in the first team. Many expected him to move this summer after missing out on the England Euro 2016 squad, but he stayed at Arsenal and he is now reaping the rewards.
Although he hasn’t been given a regular starting place, he is getting far more opportunities and he is beginning to make the most of them. His end product has been questionable in the past, with his best season in the final third coming during the 2013/14 campaign. The England international managed to finish with two goals and two assists from just 14 matches. This highlights how he could struggle in the final third and why he wasn’t being given regular minutes at Arsenal. For Oxlade-Chamberlain to break into the first team, he needs to score and create significantly more goals. His start to this season suggests that he could now be ready to do just that.
In seven Premier League matches, he has got one goal to his name so far and he has been unlucky not to get a few assists at least. Theo Walcott wasted several good chances against Swansea as he tried to clinch his hat-trick, all of which were created by Oxlade-Chamberlain. It has been in the cup competitions that the winger has impressed most. Across the Champions League and the EFL Cup, the 23-year-old has four goals and one assist. His end product is improving and he will be determined to transfer that form to the Premier League over the coming weeks.
It can take time for a player to add consistency to their game and Oxlade-Chamberlain is finally beginning to influence matches on a weekly basis. As an impact substitute, he can be devastating and cause tiring opposition defences a lot of problems. However, he will now want to be given more starts by Arsene Wenger and prove that he is now ready to be considered for a regular place in the first team. He is providing real competition for both Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott, which will please his manager. Last season, the winger had a poor campaign and it would have been easy for him to drop off, but he has bounced back with purpose.
The start of the season has been a promising one for Oxlade-Chamberlain and he now looks ready to become a regular in the Premier League. He has a good combination of pace, strength and close ball control to cause real problems when he is running with the ball. His end product is steadily improving, but for it to reach the level that it needs to be, he needs to be given regular matches. It will be interesting to see whether he receives that at Arsenal as the season progresses. If he doesn’t, he may look for a move away to another Premier League side next summer and there certainly won’t be a shortage of interested parties.
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