This morning’s news that Aaron Ramsey is set to miss a month with a hamstring injury gives an opportunity to another Arsenal youngster to finally get a solid run in the team. And potentially his last chance to show that he is good enough to be more than a bit part player in the clubs future. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Signed a few day’s before his 18th birthday for a fee rising to £15million, Arsenal were, according to Southampton fan’s, signing ‘Theo Walcott, but can play football.’
It took him no time to get up and running, scoring his first Arsenal goal a month later in the League Cup against Shrewsbury Town. He followed that up with a goal against Olympiacos in the Champions League, becoming the youngest Englishmen to score in the competition.
This was 4 years ago.
Move forward to today, Chamberlain is now 22. And for me, he is one of the most overrated players at Arsenal and, the injury to Ramsey presents his last chance to show he is good enough.
A big criticism of Theo Walcott over his career is that he “does not have a football brain”. It is something that Chamberlain has never been labelled with. Yet everytime I watch Chamberlain play, he always seems to be behind play. In his early years, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but 4 years on, he has not improved in his positional sense.
When we are attacking, and he is playing wide, he never seems to be in the right position, ready to receive the pass. He is always a few yards behind where he needs to be. He is a reactive footballer rather than a proactive one.
When he receives the ball. He is sensational. Probably the best dribbler England have at the moment. He can bet a man without a problem. Be it pass or a trick, he has both.
But once he has beaten that man, he becomes a frustration again. He either go’s on to try and beat another 2/3 men, ends up running down a blind alley and loses the ball or, more often than not, beats that first man, or even the first couple, then plays a lazy, poor pass, ruining his good work.
And how often over the last few years has he been caught out in his own half? Whether it be playing a poor pass or trying to dribble out of trouble, and very quickly putting himself and the team into trouble.
I just do not rate the bloke, or at least not as high as some people.
And let’s compare him to Theo Walcott.
Walcott has been much criticised throughout his Arsenal career for not delivering. Yet let us compare the two based on their first 4 seasons at the club:
Theo Walcott – 136 games; 18 goals
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 116 games; 12 goals
In Theo Walcott’s 5th season at the club, during which he turned 21, he scored 9 League goals. Walcott was better, at a younger age than Oxlade-Chamberlain. The next two seasons after, Walcott got 31 goals and countless assists. Chamberlain, at 22, is essentially in the first season of those two seasons, and he is a million miles behind Walcott.
The problem is he lacks end product.
For all the nice work he does on the ball, he just does not get enough goals and assists. Last season in the Premier League, he scored 1, made 1. The year before, it was 2 goals, 1 assists.
3 goals and 2 assists in 2 years is simply not good enough. When you compare to Theo Walcott, 10 goals 4 assists, you wonder what the hype is around Chamberlain.
Infact, last year, Chamberlain produced less going forward than Hecror Bellerin, with 2 Premier League goals and one assist.
And this season has been no better.
In 453 minutes of Premier League & Champions League football, he is yet to register a single goal or assists. Yes, he scored a cracker in the Community Shield, but that was a friendly. It is simply not good enough.
What perhaps shows Chamberlain’s issues up is that with Walcott playing upfront, it left the wide right position up for grabs, and Wenger went Aaron Ramsey over Chamberlain.
Now some will criticise Wenger for that. Ramsey is not a winger. He is useless outwide. Wenger is just trying to accommodate him. Etc, Etc. And to some extent, I agree. Which is why this period whilst Ramsey is out is important for Chamberlain. He needs to stamp his authority on games and show that he is good enough, moving forward, to be Arsenal’s first choice right winger.
With Walcott playing upfront, and Giroud and Welbeck in the squad, it seems Wenger is happy with the strikers. With the lack of top draw strikers in world football at the moment, if Theo Walcott continues his progress, they will be the options for the next few seasons. That then leaves the wide right position up for grabs.
I would be very surprised if Wenger see’s Ramsey as the long term option on the right wing. That leaves him with 2 (possibly 3?) choices.
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain steps up and proves himself
- Arsenal go out next summer and buy someone
- Danny Welbeck
At the minute, Chamberlain is in the driving seat. A month or more to show he is good enough. If he fails, Wenger will surely be looking elsewhere to compliment Sanchez on the left. There is an abundance of wingers out their in world football who could come in and contribute more than what Chamberlain does at the moment.
This really could be his last chance.