A common theme at Arsenal these days seems to be that particular players either have time on their side or this (and every year after) should be their breakthrough year. We have seen it with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs et al and next up in line seems to be Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A gifted player in his own right, “the Ox”, as he’s called by most fans, showed his brilliant talent as a bit part player for The Gunners after signing for them at the age of 17. Since then, he has maintained that role and has seemingly followed the trend of British players at Arsenal by seeing more time on the treatment table than on the field. With the 2016-2017 coming upon us, how exactly can Chamberlain make the move to a more substantial player for Arsenal and fulfill his latent potential?
At 22 years old, 23 in August, Alex truthfully does have many years left in the game as a player and enough before reaching what many would consider his prime years. This is also the time where young stars begin to assert themselves at the top level of the game and it should be no different for Ox. Blessed with pace and dribbling, he can easily jolt past players and he has a very good and powerful shot but for some reason the young Englishman has a problem producing in the attacking third on a consistent basis. Additionally when employed on the right wing, he can at times be predictable. Nonetheless, he remains an attacking threat and one that the Gunners will need to improve on his chance creation and goal scoring for the coming season.
The club so far has made one attacking signing in Takuma Asano, however the Japanese international is a centre forward and is not eligible for a work permit at this time. That aside, the club has so far failed to move forward on any players who may be capable of contributing in other attacking roles. This opens up a wonderful chance for Chamberlain to push off competition from the likes of Walcott, Joel Campbell and young prospect Alex Iwobi in order to really stamp his place in the team. Additionally, with Alexis Sánchez’s exploits during the Copa America ruling him out of the opening weeks of the season, this is a chance for the Ox to cement his place as a first team regular. One thing the young Englishman does not lack at this moment is opportunity and with him coming to full fitness, he should use it wisely to showcase his ability during the pre-season as he did last year.
What must be noted is that as effective and threatening a player as Chamberlain is, his end product is in need of serious improvement. While there may be debate over if he belongs central or on the flanks as Arsène Wenger did say he sees him as a future central midfielder, currently Arsenal has a wide variety of midfield players and his most noted position so far at the club is on that right flank. At the very least, this speaks well to his versatility. Regardless of where he may end up on the field, Arsenal will certainly need more goal and assist returns from him for the next and future seasons. His best season at Arsenal, being the 2014-2015 campaign, he was able to earn 23 appearances, 17 of which were starts, however, he only managed a solitary goal and an assist. That same season we saw him completing 3.6 dribbles per game as well as 1.5 key passes, which does give insight into the threat he brings. These contributions must now be translated into goals and assists especially with how Arsenal have suffered with a lack of goalscorers over the past few seasons.
With Arsenal’s other right wing options in Campbell and Walcott barely producing top numbers themselves, Alex has little to fret about in regards to fighting for his place but with Arsenal’s continued links to Riyad Mahrez, he may find himself once again a bit part player. With what the current Player of the Year displayed in the 2015-2016 season, it would be hard for Ox to make a case from himself in starting over the Algerian. While there are no concrete sources confirming these talks, Alex can remain focused on pushing himself from being Arsenal’s super sub to super star and between now and the end of the transfer window, show that he can fulfill the promise he displayed as a teen. Marrying both his physical ability with his skill and technique, Ox can very well be a crucial player for Arsenal in the coming campaign as long as fitness allows, and the best way he can do this is adding some much needed end product to his game.