All Guns Blazing: How Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can reboot his Arsenal career
10:52 07 January 2016
In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti takes a look at the perennially prodigious but underachieving England winger.
In the age of social media, there are always going be lightning rods in underachieving teams. For nearly three years, Mesut Ozil has shouldered the majority of the blame at Arsenal; Olivier Giroud is another, while Per Mertesacker and even Mathieu Flamini are in the same boat.
Yet a startling statistic in Saturday’s fortunate win against Newcastle revealed a candidate who has strangely been shielded from such criticism: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Across the Premier League in 2015, the perennially prodigious winger produced a grand total of no goals and no assists – whichever way you look at it, that’s not much of a case for the defence.
There are a few good reasons why there has only been muted acknowledgement of the England international’s stagnation. Firstly, his injury record has long been atrocious; in 2015 alone, he missed a total of 142 days with four separate problems.
Secondly, in theory he has everything: at various points in his north London career, he’s shown an eye for a pass, for a goal and consistently been one of the quickest, most exciting dribblers at the club. At the start of every season, he’s a player many predict will finally have a breakthrough – partly because, and thirdly, he’s young, humble and English, which buys him some slack even from rival supporters.
The issue is, however, that for a while now he has simply looked bereft of any confidence. Earmarked for an eventual role in midfield, his lack of a final ball and defensive lapses have seen even the nearly-sold Joel Campbell edging ahead of him in the pecking order out wide. So what’s the problem?
More than anything, it looks like a player just placing too much pressure on himself. Oxlade-Chamberlain has often spoken of his ex-professional father’s constructive criticism, but I wonder if such constant self-reflection is beginning to inhibit the natural flair that won crowds over in his debut 2012/13 season.
The good news is that at just 22, he is still nowhere near crisis point. To get back on track, he could do worse than looking to the form of Aaron Ramsey a few seasons ago. Another prone to try too hard, the Welshman simplified his game, doing the basics right before the superstar of 2013/14 emerged.
Following a similar path would surely do ‘The Ox’ no harm. We all know how fast he can run, but perhaps he’s got to remember how to walk first.
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