Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s showed against Manchester City he'll be world class for Arsenal

On Inside The Formation we'll look at an individual player's performance and analyse their input into the game. Today Joss Bennett looks at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s against Manchester City.

Despite having turned 18 just three months ago, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s performances so far this season have made him seem significantly older, and more experienced. Unlike Theo Walcott – Arséne Wenger’s last speedy protégée from Southampton – Chamberlain has largely been able to stay clear of the limelight and has shrugged off pressure situations with some excellent performances.

Against Manchester City – arguably his biggest test so far despite the opposition fielding a weakened side – the youngster had one of his best performances to date in an Arsenal shirt.

Deployed in a more traditional ‘winger’ role on the right hand side as Wenger continued to experiment with a 4-4-2 formation, the star of England’s U21 side was The Gunners’ most dangerous player throughout.

Chamberlain was always looking to take advantage of his pace and direct skill on the ball (as he has done whenever he’s played – averaging two successful dribbles per game in the Champions League this season*) against the ageing Pablo Zabaleta. However, while Chamberlain’s build, history and position on the field will always draw comparisons with Theo Walcott, it’s important at this point to outline just some of the differences between the two.

At just 18, Chamberlain already looks more confident of his abilities than Theo Walcott ever has. While the latter has often appeared indecisive, “The Ox” gave Zabaleta the run-around all night – switching his approach between cutting inside (from where he was denied a superb goal by an excellent save from the ‘keeper) and hugging the touchline, looking to beat his man with a trick or sheer pace.

On the other hand, it’s clear that Chamberlain’s movement off the ball is not quite yet on a par with his mentor. While it’s true that the two players’ approaches to the game differ, and that Chamberlain is therefore unlikely to want to make the same runs as Walcott, it also appears to be a case of not being able to. Against City, Chamberlain clearly preferred to drop back into midfield to collect, and then run with the ball, while Walcott usually drops back only to play clever one-twos and draw defenders out of position, before he spins and runs into the space behind him.

Another thing that Chamberlain slightly lacks in at the moment is defensive awareness.

While Theo Walcott is no saint in this department, some of Arsenal’s greatest tactical victories in the past few years (such as their 3-1 victory over Chelsea last season) have come about because of the wide players’ determination to track back.

Against Man City, and in other games this season, it has become evident that Chamberlain isn’t much of a fan of defending – making 0 tackles in his one Champions League appearance this season, while Walcott, Benayoun and Gervinho have all averaged 1.5 tackles per game in the same competition*.

At this point I must emphasise that this post is in no way intended to be a criticism of the man they call the Ox. Quite the opposite – the fact that Chamberlain is at this stage already, and has so few obvious faults can only be a positive. Chambo has age and time on his side and one of the best coaches in the world to help nurture him into the brilliant player he can be with some hard work and more opportunities against top level sides.

The future is bright. The future is The Ox.

*OPTA statistics from

Joss Bennett is co-editor and head writer of Arsenal blog Arsenal Report - a site for all Gooners interested in tactics, stats and the inner workings of the club. You can follow him on twitter and his read is work at Arsenal Report.

Video produced by CWDailyGoonerCulann Davies is founder, head writer and video editor of Arsenal blog CWDailyGooner - a site for all Gooners interested in analysis of Arsenal's first teamers, youngsters and loanees in video form. You can follow him on twitter and read his work at CWDailyGooner.

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