Reports have recently surfaced that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is keen on a move away from Arsenal following the current campaign. The midfielder has been with the north London club since 2011, and is thought to want more regular time on the pitch. With the Gunners already embattled in contract talks with superstars Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, the Oxlade-Chamberlain issue only further highlights a vital upcoming summer for the club.
While he has not exactly lived up to lofty expectations just yet, the now 23-year-old Oxlade-Chamberlain is currently having his most productive goalscoring season since joining the Gunners nearly six years ago. Despite managing just 20 total starts in all competitions on the 2016/17 season, the Ox has scored six goals and added seven assists. Not only has he been fairly productive despite the lack of appearances in the team’s starting XI, but Oxlade-Chamberlain has also been quite impressive when playing in a more central role this season.
Premier League fans know of the Ox’s lightning speed and regular position out on the flanks as a winger. However, after years of predictably dribbling into cul-de-sacs time after time, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger tinkered with the idea of playing his pacy midfielder in a more central role next to a defensive midfielder. The move paid off. Oxlade-Chamberlain has been brilliant following the switch, especially during Arsenal’s 5-0 FA Cup thrashing of Southampton in late January.
Following this impressive run of form in the relatively new position, Wenger praised the player. “He could perform in big games [in central midfield] and that means his real qualities are there. I always thought so,” Wenger told the Daily Star. “He has so many qualities which make you think he can play on the flanks because he’s powerful, has pace and can dribble. But the position where he really looks like blossoming is in the middle. I like his game.”
With Santi Cazorla having significant injury problems at the moment, as well as being out of contract soon, and Aaron Ramsey failing to replicate his form from a few seasons ago, Oxlade-Chamberlain has a real chance to take over the “Cazorla role” in midfield if he remains healthy. The midfielder did limp off the pitch in the club’s latest match against Lincoln City due to a hamstring issue, however, Wenger revealed that it “didn’t look a big one.”
Although the hamstring problem is a hiccup, the Ox should be able to finish the season on a strong note and perhaps be rewarded with a new contract. The 23-year-old only has a year left on his current deal (just like the aforementioned Ozil and Sanchez), but his success in the relatively new position, and goal output could lead to restored faith in the midfielder. While a bit of a roster clear out could freshen up the club this summer, Oxlade-Chamberlain should remain with the Gunners.
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