After a remarkable preseason, the 20-year-old started the first game of the season against Aston Villa. He set up the opening goal, but picked up a knee injury just before half-time. As a result of that injury, Oxlade-Chamberlain was sidelined for five months.
After returning to practice earlier this week, the player known as “the Ox” will look to capitalize on Walcott’s injury by filling the void on the right side of Arsenal’s attack. Although Serge Gnabry delivered a breath-taking performance as the right-sided midfielder against Tottenham, the 18-year-old is lacking experience. At the moment, the German is incapable of consistently performing at a high level.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has the experience needed to step into Arsene Wenger’s starting lineup. According to Arsenal.com, the English international has played 60 games and scored six goals for the North London club.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, just like Walcott, is a product of Southampton’s academy, but they share other unequivocal similarities. Both young attackers are capable of beating a full-back with blazing speed and trickery.
Unlike Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain can play as a center midfielder. He is blessed with the ability to create goals and positively affect the tempo of a game by driving into the heart of the defense. ESPNFC’s James McNicholas accurately describes Oxlade-Chamberlain as “a creator.”
When he does play on the flanks, the young midfielder is prone to drifting into the center of the pitch, while Walcott looks to run in behind the defender.
In the past, Walcott has stated his desire to play a more central role, which is why he’s always drifting in the box. But Oxlade-Chamberlain has no desire to be a center-forward. He’d rather be the facilitator of goals.
Last season, Walcott was Arsenal’s top goal scorer with 21 goals in all competition and he has six this season. When Oxlade-Chamberlain returns to the starting lineup he’ll have to carry the goal scoring load Walcott vacated in order to keep Arsenal top of the table.
Although “the Ox” is capable of striking from long range, he’ll have to get much closer to the goal to score more goals. The English midfielder has to be willing to run in behind defenders, rather than cut inside. Because Arsenal already has three midfielders in the middle, Oxlade-Chamberlain has to utilize the width of the pitch.
He has to stay wide and make intelligent runs in behind when his defender has his guard down. With his pace, Oxlade-Chamberlain should be able fly pass the first defender, and when he’s past his marker, he can use his creative abilities to pick out Giroud or have a go at goal.
With Walcott sidelined for the rest of the season and the World Cup, Oxlade-Chamberlain has a chance of locking down a spot in Wenger’s starting XI and England’s World Cup Squad. If the talented midfielder can seize this opportunity, it might be the start of something special.