Ox wants Saints to stay up but Arsenal won’t do them any favours
PUBLISHED: 09:07 01 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:14 01 January 2013
Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hopes old club Southampton will have enough about them to stay in the Premier League, but will be going all out to maintain the Gunners’ momentum with a fifth straight win on New Year’s Day.
Oxlade-Chamberlain came through the Southampton Academy before catching the eye of several top-flight clubs and eventually following Theo Walcott from St Mary’s to Emirates Stadium in a big-money move last summer.
The 19-year-old has developed quickly under the guidance of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, going on to win full England honours and a place in the squad for Euro 2012.
Despite some positive displays, Southampton remain in the relegation zone after they drew 3-3 at Stoke in a match they had led 3-1 and were only denied victory by a superb last-gasp strike by Cameron Jerome.
After helping Nigel Adkins’ squad get up out of npower League One and set on their way towards a triumphant top-flight return, Oxlade-Chamberlain hopes the Saints stay back up among England’s elite will not prove shortlived.
“I hope they do stay up. They have got goals in them, but it is just defensively,” said Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was on target as Walcott netted a hat-trick in the 7-3 win over Newcastle on Saturday.
“That, though, is hard for anyone in the Premier League because there is so much attacking ability.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain is still in contact with many of the current Southampton squad, having played alongside the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Jose Fonte and Ricky Lambert.
Striker Lambert netted his eighth Premier League goal in the Stoke match and Oxlade-Chamberlain knows Arsenal will have to be on their guard against the powerful forward, who also hit the target when Manchester United visited St Mary’s earlier in the season.
“He is a natural goalscorer, has the physique and is good in the air, a typical old school centre forward and also has a great free-kick on him,” said Oxlade-Chamberlain.
“He is always a threat, so we will have to watch out for him.”
Wenger has had to endure one of the most testing spells of his 16-season tenure, which included a Capital One Cup penalty shoot-out defeat to npower League Two side Bradford.
However, there is now genuine optimism for the second half of the campaign as Arsenal are back within striking distance of the top four and ready to tackle Bayern Munich for a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
The Gunners head into the New Year in fifth place, but with a match in hand over Tottenham after their Boxing Day fixture against West Ham was postponed because of industrial action on London Underground.
However, with Everton and West Brom both also on 33 points, Wenger knows there can be little margin for error if his team are to come good over the second half of the season.
“We come from far [behind] and we of course need to be consistent if we want a chance to come back, and that is what is at stake for us - show we can be consistent from game to game,” he said.
“We have another opportunity against Southampton, and it is important we take it.”