“Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain refuses to rule out move away from Arsenal”
That was the sensationalist head line that materialised from Oxlade-Chamberlain’s appearance with his dad on Goals on Sunday.
Before we get into the meat of this blog, let’s deal with a little bit of veg. Here is what Oxlade-Chamberlain actually said;
“I’d be lying if I wasn’t going to sit here and say that it has crossed my mind that I need more game time,” Oxlade-Chamberlain told Sky Sports. “As a footballer, you want to play every game. Me being myself, I’m not happy when I’m not playing.
“There is going to come a time in my career, and I think I’m approaching that, when I do need to be getting more regular football. But my focus completely and utterly now is on playing for Arsenal and still trying to break into the team when I get the opportunity, and help out if I have to come off the bench.”
“My sole aim for now is to help Arsenal and keep pushing myself to play in this team, because I love being at Arsenal. It’s a great club, it’s a great team and I’ve got a lot of faith in the team,” he said. “So I just want to keep focusing on that.
“But there is that in my mind that I do want to get more game time. There comes a time in your career where you have to re-evaluate things and think, ‘Is that going to be here or elsewhere?’
“I’m not there at the moment, I’m fully focused on this season, playing my part in that. When you get to the end of the season, just like managers do where they re-evaluate their team, players re-evaluate their personal situation, and I’ll do that at the end of the season.”
What he has said, and shown, is that he is a mature young man who is focused on his career. He could easily sit on the bench for Arsenal for the next 5 years, picking up a big wage, living the easy life, going Faces, Nu-Bar or wherever these young footballers go these days when they are average players (usually at Spurs) and want to go on the smash and pick up easy girls.
Oxlade-Chamberlain wants to play football. He wants to become the best that he can. He has not refused to rule out a move from Arsenal, but instead refused to accept sitting on the bench. He is clearly happy at Arsenal, but not happy about not playing. So let’s not go OTT with the “Oxlade-Chamberlain says ‘play or me or lose me’” stuff.
But what actually now for the career of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain?
He joined Arsenal for an initial payment of £12m from Southampton a few days short of his 18th birthday. He came with nearly as much hype as fellow Southampton academy prospect Theo Walcott. In fact, the rumours were he was better than Walcott.
In 2011, Walcott was under extreme pressure at Arsenal, from fans and media alike. He was 22 and struggling. As quick as he was, accusations were being thrown around that he lacked a football brain, could not cross, was poor technically, and his time at Arsenal was coming to an end.
A Southampton season ticket holder friend of mine described Oxlade-Chamberlain as “better technically than Walcott, not as much pace, but a better all round player”. And early evidence proved him to be correct.
A video posted to YouTube a few months after he had signed for Arsenal certainly gave a lot to be excited about.
March 2012, he put in his best performance in an Arsenal shirt to date. A fantastic performance in the Champions League against AC Milan, which saw Arsenal come so close to overturning a 4-0 deficit form the first leg. He was just 18.
Very much like Jack Wilshere, who’s best performance in an Arsenal shirt also came as a teenager in the Champions League, he has since gone on to disappoint. Unlike Wilshere, it is not just down to injury.
Now before you all start angrily replying on Facebook and Twitter “another youngster ruined by Le Fraud Wenger”, let’s stop chatting bollocks. Enough youngsters have come through over the years which show that Wenger does not ruin youngsters. It is merely a narrative created to suit an agenda of some very bitter people.
So what did go wrong with Oxlade-Chamberlain? Well he just did not progress.
He always struggled for fitness, always looking like he was puffing out of his arse after 60 minutes, always struggled to put a run of 5 starts together, the signs were there early on.
There was also always question marks over his best position. You get the feeling that he always felt he was better off playing in the middle, behind a striker, but with the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil ahead of him, he usually found himself out wide. At which point he then drifted into the middle, getting in others way.
Oxlade-Chamberlain can beat a man for fun. It is what happens after he beats the man that causes the problem. He would then try and beat another. Then another. Until he gets to the point that he gets tackled. He would always try to beat one man too many.
Rather than beat the man, and play a simple pass to keep the play going, he would end up losing the ball, play breaking down. And it materialised that his crossing was no better than Theo Walcott, and his finishing worse.
He is in his 7th season at Arsenal. And has scored just 8 league goals in that time. The output from him is clearly not good enough.
Last season, he lost his place to Joel Campbell. This season we have seen the development of Alex Iwobi that is keeping him out of the first team.
What the development of these two has shown is just how average Oxlade-Chamberlain currently is. How little he has progressed.
Iwobi is just 20 years old, and is putting in more consistent performances, stringing together more games, than Oxlade-Chamberlain ever did.
He beats a man, plays a simple ball, before finding space to receive it once more. It is no surprise Iwobi is ahead of Oxlade-Chamberlain in the pecking order. He is a better, more effective player than Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Oxlade-Chamberlain can do with looking at Iwobi and Campbell. Work out why they got in the team ahead of him. Their selfless play, their fitness, their desire.
Over the summer Arsene Wenger showed a ruthless streak. Selling Serge Gnabry to Germany, loaning out Joel Campbell to Spain. Whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain might try and engineer his own way out of Arsenal at the end of the season, there is also a high chance that he might be pushed.
If Oxlade-Chamberlain really does want a future at Arsenal, it is down to him, and only him. He is the master of his own destiny. If he does not prove himself when given the chance, he will soon find himself at West Ham.
Of course, he has already showed his desire to play football. and if he finds himself still struggling to break through at the end of the season, maybe a move to West Ham or the like will do him good, will re-energise his career. Playing week in week out for 90 minutes allowing him to prove himself.
Oxlade-Chamberlain days at Arsenal look to be numbered.