With the transfer window well and truly open, one of England’s brightest young talents is being linked with a big money move to one of the Premier League giants. 17-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has impressed for Southampton this season and has already been named the ‘new Theo Walcott’ down at St. Mary’s. Before we all get carried away with England’s next best thing though, cast your mind back to 2006 and Walcott’s own multi-million pound transfer to Arsenal. Is there a lesson to be learned?
Much like Oxlade-Chamberlain, as a youngster coming through at Southampton, Walcott had the world at his feet. He was unpredictable, exciting, set goals up and even scored them. If he didn’t perform, fans put it down to inexperience and were convinced he would be back on song next time. All of a sudden, Arsene Wenger came calling. Walcott was the subject of much speculation and consequently made a move to the North London club with a fee which cost a total of £11 million, after all the add-ons.
For the player himself, there is no debating that the lure of playing for a such a successful club is too much to turn down. Automatically, he would have had thoughts of playing at the Nou Camp in the Champions League and lifting the Premier League title. What actually followed wasn’t really as he would have planned.
As it stands, Walcott can justify his transfer, he has realised most of those dreams. He is finally a regular in the Arsenal first team and is starting to produce the type of consistent performances which he has promised for years but failed to deliver. We saw flashes of brilliance – Croatia away comes to mind – but it was never often enough. How many times in the past few seasons have people questioned whether he had enough to make it as a top quality player? We never let him get on with it, and considering the bad luck he has experienced with injuries and all the focus on his inclusion in the 2006 World Cup, he has done remarkably well to still become a world-class player.
So considering all of this, is it a wise move for Oxlade-Chamberlain to make the step up to a team like Liverpool? If reports are to believed, they are leading the chase for his signature with a sum in the region of £10 million being mentioned. At 17, what is wrong with plying your trade in the lower leagues? Gain some experience and then make the move when you’re more capable to handle the pressures which will no doubt come from playing at such an illustrious club at such a young age?
At the very least, if Southampton are in a position where they are forced to sell, they should stipulate the player has to be loaned back for another season to carry on with his football education. Tottenham have done it with Kyle Walker, and look at him now. He was superb on loan at QPR and now he is showing he is Premier League class at Aston Villa.
The future is very bright for the Saints’ new star but he should err on the side of caution. Moving to a top four side brings its own pressures, which will only multiply given his age. He may already have the temperament to deal with such a move and will undoubtedly go on to become a huge success, but the threat is there. Walcott’s Arsenal career was almost ruined by the intensity surrounding such a promising young English talent. He has lived to tell the tale, let’s hope Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can too.