Ox’s England Role Is Good For Arsenal
There’s a noticeable abatement in transfer gossip these past few days, as Euro 2012 nears commencement and fans reconcile themselves to the fact that the earliest any deals can be completed is after the end of the group stages on 19th June. Of course, every good performance will lead to that player being linked to Arsenal, the author himself guilty of indulging in it yesterday – although you have to admit Ibrahim Afellay does look good in the new Arsenal shirt.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s performance against Belgium on Saturday is being applauded in the media. On his first start for country, he looked the only fearless English player on the Wembley pitch. It’s a quality Roy Hodgson wants to promote in the youngster and Arsene Wenger will be quite happy to have the Ox under the veteran’s care.
However, there’s no positive precedent in taking a raw Arsenal youngster to a major international tournament. Theo Walcott’s passenger ticket to the 2006 World Cup only exposed him to a disappointing campaign and you don’t learn anything from sitting on the sidelines in a losing team. As it is, I think he was exposed too early to a dressing room full of senior players and even today, it seems like Walcott is not entirely at home in the England squad.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has a different personality though and his powerful build commands respect as well. You can see he is not fazed by senior team-mates at Arsenal or in the England squad. He will also benefit from the low expectation levels surrounding England at present, both as a result of the players available and Roy Hodgson’s conservative playing style. While English supporters are quietly hoping for the best, whatever the team achieves will either be on par with expectation or in excess of it – and that means we are likely to see the Ox involved more than we might have initially thought.
Based on his performance against AC Milan in the return leg at the Emirates and England’s lack of options in midfield, I think AOC is best suited to play as an attacking central midfielder in front of Gerrard and Parker. But that would require England to play a more attacking 4-2-1-3 formation, something Roy Hodgson is unlikely to do. So bearing in mind that the more rigid and defensive 4-4-2 will be the norm for England, the Ox is likely to feature on the left wing in the tournament as he did against Belgium.
In Roy’s defensive formation, the youngster will learn to fall back and be patient without the ball. At the same time, his trickery and pace will be very useful on the counter attack. This is good for Arsenal because while I think Arsene Wenger will gradually move the former Southampton man into the midfield, he still has a lot to learn about ball retention and defensive duties and will also play on the wings for Arsenal in the near future. If England progress to the later stages, the confidence boost will certainly be useful to Arsenal at the start of next season.
In other news, Robin van Persie has indicated how Thierry Henry’s words helped him prepare mentally for the European Championships. Speaking after the friendly win over Northern Ireland, he refused to comment on his Arsenal future:
We have both promised that we are not going to comment on anything and I will stick to that. You can also see that Arsenal are acting in the same way, as we discussed. The club does not say anything either, because that is what we said we would do.
While the media speculate negatively on his Arsenal future, I see this statement as a positive sign because it indicates that he’s fairly relaxed about the situation. Whatever the outcome at the end of the summer though, I think we should remember Robin as much for his exemplary conduct off the field as his contribution on the pitch. Oh, and if you haven’t already, do read this superb piece on Robin in FT magazine, it’s unmissable.