Alex Oxlade Chamberlain made his switch from Southampton to Arsenal in the summer for a staggering £12million , as he became one of the most expensive teenage signing. ‘The Ox’ as he is fondly known, possesses tremendous pace and skill and is comfortable playing on either side of the wings. His impressive display against Manchester United where he danced past defenders and displayed maturity, beyond his teenage years, has won him many fans and people have already started talking about ‘The Plane to Ukraine’. Does this ring a bell ? Certainly a case of Deja Vu.
In 2006 , the then England manager Sven Goran Eriksson announced his squad for the world cup and to everyone’s surprise included a young lad from Arsenal, who hadn’t even made his Premiership debut for the Gunners. Walcott had just completed his move from ‘The Saints’ and was picked ahead of Darren Bent and Jermaine Defoe. The similarities are there for all to see. Both pacey exciting wingers, both come from Southampton, both ironically purchased for the same price and both burst on the scene with international hat-tricks. Although, you’d think only one of them is a real hope for England and Arsenal’s future.
For a number of years now, Theo Walcott has looked like someone who could, one day, develop into a world class footballer. However, his development hasn’t progressed at the anticipated rate. Despite still leaving numerous defenders for dead with his pace, the quality of Theo’s final ball is still poor and his finishing is not good enough for someone who wants to be taken seriously as a Centre-Forward. Being a Three Lions fan, I hope that he is a late bloomer and all his promise will translate into match-winning performances.
On the other hand, Chamberlain is a completely different player when compared to his fellow team-mate. Whilst Walcott is a striker, more commonly deployed on the wing, Chamberlain began his career as an attacking midfield player, only eventually finding himself playing out wide as a result of his pace. This insight into his development explains why he is already the superior player to Walcott on the ball, in terms of first touch, passing and vision. These are attributes that he displayed in abundance on Sunday, an afternoon in which Theo didn’t produce an impressive account of himself. In fact, the bemused look on Robin Van Persie’s face when Arsene Wenger sent on Andrey Arshavin for Chamberlain, as opposed to Walcott, told a story of its own.
So what are the chances of Chamberlain joining Walcott on the plane to Euro 2012? Articles are already being written, suggesting the winger will be Capello’s ‘wildcard’ pick for the competition. As long as Gervinho is at the African Cup of Nations, Chamberlain should get more chances, but that’s not a long time to prove himself and secure a starting spot for the remainder of the season. Without regular football for Arsenal, it would be difficult to justify including the teenager in his 23-man squad. Either way, if Chamberlain fulfills his early promise, he’ll shine in comparison to Theo and we may look back one day and realize that I was right after all.