It wasn’t so long ago that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the next big thing in English football. Quick, powerful, strong, he put fear into defences, with only two years between his Southampton debut in the Championship and his first England cap and being called up to the squad for Euro 2012. Fast forward four years, still at Arsenal, but Oxlade-Chamberlain is no nearer to being a first team regular than he was as an 18-year-old.
Last season’s injury disrupted campaign saw him score two goals in 33 games across all competitions, the exact same figures as he got in the 2012-13 season aged 19. Whilst he figured in most games in which he was fit to play, just 22 Premier League appearances will disappoint the right winger, who suffered from separate thigh and knee injuries last season. What will be of more concern to Oxlade-Chamberlain will be that he only completed 90 minutes in 6 games across the season, either starting on the bench or being substituted as Arsene Wenger continued to display a seeming lack of trust and reliance upon the youngster.
Towards the end of last season, there were many rumours that such limited playing time and average form would prevent him from being called up by Roy Hodgson, before an injury put an end to any hopes of a summer trip to France. It’s clear that for Oxlade-Chamberlain to step up to the next level, something needs to change.
This summer has seen rumours linking him with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City, and understandably so. Whilst it would still be unlikely that he would be an automatic first choice under Pep Guardiola, it would provide him with an excellent opportunity to develop. Pep has shown his ability to turn average players into world beaters and get the best out of them, for example Pedro at Barcelona, similar to Klopp in many cases at Dortmund.
Guardiola and Klopp’s styles of football would undoubtedly suit a player like Oxlade-Chamberlain, with fast, attacking football which he has struggled to gain at Arsenal. Whilst the Gunners are an attacking team, their build up play has shackled Oxlade-Chamberlain to a more restricted role which limits his ability to run with power and pace as they favour a slow passing build up rather than rapid counter attacks.
With a new England boss set to be appointed in the coming weeks and months, it’s vital for the Ox that he starts a new era by impressing the new manager and working his way into the first few England squads if he is to form part of this exciting new generation of young English talent, instead of stagnating at the Emirates.
For Oxlade-Chamberlain, at just 22, this coming season will be vital in order for him to prove himself and demonstrate that he can play as a regular at the very highest level. So far, he has shown great glimpses, but is yet to show that quality on a consistent basis. A move to Manchester City or Liverpool could be the motivation to provide the spark to do just that.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Stuart MacFarlane.