Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might not be the answer to all of Arsenal’s problems this season, but he will be an answer to one of them eventually. He could be the player to replicate the productivity of Andrey Arshavin in his early period at Arsenal. He is not a handsome poster boy, such as Theo Walcott, and besides their former club and current footballing position the parallels between them are few.
Chamberlain stands broader with a boxer-like pair of shoulders. His start to his Arsenal career, apart from a difficult substitute appearance against Manchester United (some might say unfair to debut him in such a game), has been fluent. When he loses the ball, you sense it is due to a young man’s lack of concentration borne out of inexperience. When Walcott loses the ball, one feels he has failed to keep the ball due to his brain failing to translate his intentions to his feet. In short, Chamberlain has a far more balanced building block of tools to become a top player. A few months ago he was playing against Notts County, Yeovil Town, Rochdale and Swindon. Now he’s played Champions League football and not looked out of his depth. The cumulative result of his quick rise to being involved in European football is that Wenger is not overly rushing him into the team.
Chamberlain’s best role for the short-medium term needs to be on the right wing. A right footed right winger has a more simple role than a right footed left winger. Their role is less involved with the full back in attacking and more pace reliant since they are naturally drawn to the touchline as opposed to drifting in field, which, in turn, creates the room for a marauding full back. Chamberlain and Walcott could add 3 years to the career of Sagna as they should be tasked with hitting the touchline more than a drifting left footed player. Adam Johnson in front of the Frenchman would mean Sagna covering another few miles at least. Kieran Gibbs has far more attacking duties on the left, running inside right footed players such as Gervinho and Arshavin. When Robert Pires played for Arsenal in the role on the left, Arsenal became one sided in the sense that so many of the attacks came through the relationship he had with Ashley Cole. Cole played the role of the dangerous attacking fullback extremely well.
Continuing with the theme of the right footed left winger, this role has often been entrusted to the more experienced and tactically aware players to carry the creativity burden for teams. Examples of Pires, Arshavin, Ashley Young, Ribery, Nasri,and even Gervinho are examples. It is rare to see a very teenager be allowed to play there. It requires knowledge and understanding of the game, as the timing for when to hold the line and when to drift will ultimately dictate the formation when in possession. Chamberlain probably lacks the confidence to assert a strong partnership alongside a left back colleague at his current stage of development.
However; with his technical skill, ability to pick up the ball and run, eye for a goal or assist – this is the position I see him ending up. With his blocky upper body, I see him bouncing off right backs and darting into the penalty area to make goals in the future. Some have mooted him as a central midfielder but I would disagree that this will be his future. He has quick feet, but his style is explosive and best energised through the challenge of an immediate target, such as an oncoming defender.
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