Arsenal have always been known for nurturing and producing top quality foreign talent. Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Cesc Fabregas and Thierry Henry are just a few names whom enhanced their career while playing under the guidance of Arsene Wenger. However, the Gunners have also unearthed some great English players, whether from their fantastic academy or brought in from another club at a very young age. The likes of Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Ray Parlour, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott spring to mind immediately.
As well as Walcott, Wenger saw great potential on the famous Southampton conveyor belt in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, snapping him up for £10m in 2011. Without even thinking, this signing was better than signing Walcott. Moving from a big club at such a young age can be daunting for some youngsters, and as a result, their footballing careers often take a dramatic downhill spiral and they end up plying their trade in the lower tiers of English football attempting to resurrect their careers. On the other end of the scale, ‘The Ox’ has been a revelation for the North Londoners, and is a role model for any young and aspiring footballer hoping to make it in the professional game.
Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain both signed for Arsenal at a young age and for similar price tags, the difference between the two is versatility. It has been widely known that as well as operating as a winger, Walcott has openly said of his desire to play as an outright striker. In the handful of games he has played as a striker at the Emirates, proof is there that Walcott should stay out on the right wing. Meanwhile Oxlade-Chamberlain, who also plays on the wing, is extremely capable of playing across all positions of the midfield. His strong stature and physique prove that playing in the heart of the midfield is where he could belong.
Despite his unfortunate injury record – which forced him out of the majority of England’s World Cup campaign – the Ox can prove to be vital for both club and country in centre midfield. Last season in the Champions League game against German champions Bayern Munich, Wenger gave the England international a free role. This turned out to be extremely effective for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who completed 10 successful dribbles in the match – the same amount as the whole of the Bayern Munich team in the entire 90 minutes. The young Englishman caused Pep Guardiola’s players headaches on the night, and overshadowed £40m signing Mesut Ozil. Despite Munich taking control, Oxlade-Chamberlain was his usual self by giving 100% in the game, and looked the visitors’ best chance of a surprising comeback in the Allianz Arena.
As well as his domestic duties with Wenger, Three Lions gaffer Roy Hodgson should also take note of Oxlade-Chmberlain’s new found position on the pitch. With the international retirement of Steve Gerrard, the young Arsenal man is the ideal replacement, both in an attacking and defensive aspect, to spearhead England back to the glory days. Hopefully he can achieve something brilliant for both club and country in the centre of the park.
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