First it was Aaron Ramsey. Then it was Jack Wilshere. Now its is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. They are 23, 22 and 20 respectively. And this season, when called upon, have all stepped up.
Ramsey was the first one to show he had taken giant strides forward. After injury and lack of form, some felt his Arsenal career should be over. 13 goals this season saw him named Arsenal Player of the Month an unprecedented 4 time’s in a row between August and November. He stepped up.
Whilst Ramsey was in sparkling form, Jack Wilshere was making headlines for other reasons, which led me to call for him to “stop being a chav and grow up”, after his single fingered salute to the Manchester City fans. It seemed what Wilshere needed was not an arm around him, but more responsibility.
With Ramsey’s injury against West Ham, Wilshere was pushed back into the middle, and he began to shine, peaking by scoring and assisting in the victory of Aston Villa. With Ramsey out, he stepped up.
Next up was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Returning from his own injury problems, his chances looked limited. But with Wilshere and Ramsey crocked, and new signing Kim Kallstrom injured before he’d even joined, Wenger had little choice but to play The Ox in central midfield – a position where Wenger has been saying for some time his future lies.
And boy, did The Ox step up. A 2 goal man of the match performance yesterday against Crystal Palace shows that we have plenty of depth and talent in central midfield. Yes, we need further back up in defensive midfield, however in front that, in the ‘water carrier’ role, we have 3 talented young men all with the ability to step up when needed.
Oxlade-Chamberlain started off shakey, playing a few too many Hollywood passes and perhaps trying to hard. But as he relaxed and got into the game, his talent shone through. 2 brilliant goals were only the tip of the iceberg. His ability to pick up the ball deep and run with it is something that we missed against Southampton. Players hate running back towards their own goal, and The Ox’s ability to drive with the ball got Crystal Palace running scared.
We might have problems elsewhere in the side (upfront, defensive midfield), however, we can sit confidently knowing that we have 3 top midfielder’s who, when required, have all stepped up to the plate.