In August 2011, Arsenal paid a reported £15m to Southampton for the services of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. At the time, the 17-year-old arrived in North London with a huge reputation and was expected to build on his ten goals in 41 games. The England star has struggled to nail down a place in Arsene Wenger’s side and is looking increasingly frustrated with sitting on the bench. The question is, does his future lie elsewhere?
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s versatility may have hindered his progress over the last couple of years. Wenger has deployed the midfielder in a variety of positions, which have included a holding role and right winger. The former Southampton man has proved a useful addition but his progress may have been stunted by his willingness to fulfill a number of roles. The 23-year-old still managed 45 appearances last season in all competitions but he’s been unable to concentrate fully on honing his craft in one single position.
He has just one year left on his contract in North London but has reportedly become increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of the negotiations and is still waiting for the club to offer him a deal. Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City are all reportedly interested in the services of ‘The Ox’ should he decide to leave the Emirates this summer.
Arsenal will need to act quickly if they wish to tie down Oxlade-Chamberlain to a new deal and they will be extremely reluctant to lose their man to another Premier League rival. The Gunners are only sixth favourites for the title next season, priced at 14/1 in the Premier League outright betting market with 888sport as they aim to put a disappointing campaign behind them. Allowing Oxlade-Chamberlain to join either Manchester City or Chelsea will simply play into the hands of the top two in the betting.
Having burst onto the stage at such a young age, the next couple of years will be crucial for Oxlade-Chamberlain. He is still young enough to develop and significantly improve his game but will that be possible at Arsenal? Moving to Chelsea or Man City may result in fewer starts being increasingly deployed from the bench. His best position is still unknown and he probably requires a coach who will insist on regularly starting the 23-year-old in the same role week in, week out.
His team-mate Danny Welbeck believes playing him in a central position could be the key but much will depend on whether Arsene Wenger agrees. Oxlade-Chamberlain finished last season in the wing-back position and impressed but many fans still don’t know which role suits him best.
Arsenal aren’t exactly short of central men, with Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny all specialists at operating in the heart of the midfield. Oxlade-Chamberlain may be able to specialise in his favoured role elsewhere. His salary, however, would dictate that only a handful of clubs would be financially able to sign him with Liverpool his most likely destination.
There is still plenty of untapped potential in the player and Arsenal haven’t got the best out of the 23-year-old yet. If he wants to hold down a regular central midfield position he has surely got to explore different options this summer.
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