When Arsenal superstar Alexis Sanchez hobbled off of the pitch against Norwich last Sunday, many Gunners supporters knew Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would most likely receive a boost in playing time if the Chilean was to miss time. While initial feelings were that Alexis could miss up to six weeks due to the injury, reports have suggested that the hamstring issue is not as bad as once assumed, and the forward could be back into the side in time for Arsenal’s massive match against Manchester City on Dec. 21st.
In the meantime, the Gunners will play Sunderland, Olympiacos and Aston Villa before the clash with the current league leaders. With Oxlade-Chamberlain likely to take the place of Alexis for at least these three matches, the England international has a solid chance to prove what he is capable of to manager Arsene Wenger.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has been on the verge of a breakout season really since 2012. Although he has showed flashes of brilliance during his four-and-a-half seasons in North London, the Ox needs to put together a full season of outstanding play, something that he is surely capable of.
The 22-year-old midfielder is a fantastic dribbler of the ball and utilizes his pace well when he is deployed out on the flank. Although the Ox possesses blazing speed, Wenger has stated before that his future position could, in fact, be as a central midfielder. The boss even likened Oxlade-Chamberlain to Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard.
Speaking in 2014 about his player, Wenger stated:
“At the moment he is still in formation. It is good for his education as he plays left, right and centrally when needed. After [the age of] 23 or 24 you settle in a definite position. He will be deeper as he has a good long ball, penetration from deep and a good quality to distribute and penetrate individually. Certainly he has the same qualities to Steven Gerrard. He is a bit of a Ramsey type.”
Though Wenger believes Oxlade-Chamberlain will eventually flourish more centrally, his current opportunity to shine will involve him playing out wide. Due to Arsenal’s current injury “crisis,” a likely starting lineup for the Gunners against Sunderland at the weekend will include Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Joel Campbell, the Ox and Olivier Giroud.
Arsenal will surely miss Alexis, as his goalscoring ability is most likely tops in the North London club; however, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s dribbling and passing statistics are quiet impressive. When you calculate numbers per 90 minutes during league play this season, the Ox boasts 2.15 key passes and 4.55 successful take ons every match. This is compared to Alexis’ 1.88 key passes and 3.76 successful take ons during the same competition.
With some predicting that he could win the Young Player of the Season award at the end of the current campaign (including yours truly), the potential has always been there for the Ox to achieve great things. As Oxlade-Chamberlain will likely make his 90th Premier League appearance on Saturday, the time is now for the former Southampton player to step up and do his part to help keep the Gunners in contention for a league title.
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