Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deserves a chance in the middle
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of the hottest topics in English football right now, not least due to the fact that he is entering the final year of his Arsenal contract and has not yet shown an inclination to sign a new deal at the Emirates. Add to that the rumors of Chelsea lodging a 35 million pound offer for the man, the discussion is really heating up.
There are numerous rumors going around as to why the power-winger is refusing to sign a new contract, with some claiming that he simply wants a massive pay rise, while some quote a different reason.
Some sources claim that one of the main reasons the Englishman does not want to sign a new deal is due to the fact that he does not see himself continuing his career as winger or wing-back, but rather sees his future in the middle of the park as a box-to-box midfielder.
Pundits and fans around the world seem to be puzzled as to why the winger wants to move infield, but the former Southampton starlet has a case to make for himself.
He has the necessary skills.
The box-to-box midfield position is not completely alien to Chamberlain. In the past, when Arsenal have found themselves short of numbers in midfield, Arsene Wenger has handed Chamberlain opportunities in the middle. One of Chamberlain's best performances in an Arsenal shirt came when he played in the middle.
The Englishman started as a midfielder in Arsenal's home game against Crystal Palace during the 13/14 season. He finished the game having scored both of Arsenal's goals on the day, and bagged the man-of-the-match award.
The Ox showed that the has all the necessary skills to make the cut as the midfield engine. One of the most important skills for a midfielder is passing, and Chamberlain can definitely pass the ball.
His passing percentage from last season is a solid 83%, which for a winger is a good success rate. He has the ability to link up with players around him, playing one-two's and releasing other players. He showed-off these traits when he played that home game against Crystal Palace, when he was constantly linking up with Giroud, which also resulted in The Ox's first goal of the game.
Besides his link up play, Chamberlain also has the ability to hit the long ball with a fair amount of accuracy, which is a desirable trait in a midfielder. Last season, the average length of his passes was 20 meters, and considering his pass percentage, he definitely has the ability to hit the long ball. With likes of Lacazette and Sanchez running the channels, Chamberlain's ability to hit the long pass could be one that greatly benefits the team.
Another key attribute The Ox possesses is his inexhaustible engine. He has the ability to run up and down the field all game, shown by his recent exploits in the wing-back role. If deployed in the middle of the park, Chamberlain would definitely be able to get cover the ground without any issue. His stamina coupled with the fact that he has a considerable amount of pace to burn, he can definitely offer Arsenal something different in midfield. He also runs the channels of midfield with competency, giving his teammates on the ball the opportunity to find him with a long ball or through ball.
Currently, Arsenal do not have too many physical midfielders in the team. While Xhaka does love himself a tackle, he has shown, through his red cards, that he can be found lacking when it comes to the pace of the game.
On the other hand, Chamberlain is a very physical player, and has the ability to bully players off the ball due to his immense upper-body strength. The Ox does not shy away from a physical challenge, and coupled with his pace, he could be vital in breaking down counter-attacks from the middle of the park.
Oxlade offers a different option to the current options Arsenal have in midfield. Chamberlain is definitely would not be a traditional box-to-box midfielder, but that does not mean that he cannot be a midfielder. The Englishman's mix of attributes could make him a unique option to partner Xhaka in midfield. Xhaka is an excellent passer of the ball, and The Ox loves making runs, and taking players on. Through his role as wing-back, he has shown that he has the ability to do the defensive dirty work, which is crucial for a midfielder.
There is no way to definitively conclude if Chamberlain will be a success in the middle without seeing him get opportunities in the middle. In his defense, whenever he has gotten the opportunity in the middle, he has shown that he can play there without difficulty with the game against Palace four years ago being a prime example.
Arsenal are in need of a different option in midfield. There is no guarantee that Wilshere can stay fit for the majority of the season; add to the simple truth that both Coquelin and El Neny are not good enough to play for Arsenal on a regular basis, Chamberlain most definitely has a case to make.
If the player is basing signing a new contract on being given opportunities in the position, he strongly believes that he can be an asset to the team as a box-to-box player. Chamberlain has not receveied any opportunities to play in his preferred position for a very long time. Wenger himself as stated in the past that Chamberlain could one be a "Gerard type" midfielder, so the manager should at the least give the player the chance to prove himself.
Wenger recently stated that he hopes to keep Chamberlain for years to come, since the manager sees Chamberlain as one of the most sought-after Englishman in the market. It would definitely be a risky move to play Chamberlain in the middle, but it could definitely be a risk worth taking for the manager since it could see Chamberlain staying put for the foreseeable future, and maybe coming down on his wage demands.