Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s quiet but assured performance was perfect start to his England career

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 performance against France for England at Euro 2012.

Since his surprise inclusion in Roy Hodgson’s 23 man England squad for the EuropeanChampionships this summer, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has faced a wide range of reactions.

From fears that the young winger would become ‘Theo Walcott Mark II’ – sitting pretty
on the bench without any actual involvement at all, to reluctant suggestions he would be
an ‘impact player’, Chamberlain has now proved himself worthy of far more respect.

By his own admission, there was nothing outstanding about youngster’s performance; ‘the
Ox’ didn’t have a single shot or cross during his 77 minutes on the pitch*. In fact, bar
perhaps an eight second YouTube clip of some fancy footwork, the Arsenal winger had a
quiet game (his 30 touches a higher tally than only Ashley Young’s in the England side that

Of course that is by no means a suggestion that the former Southampton prodigy had a
bad game. Instead, these statistics further go to prove the player’s incredible maturity and
ability to handle pressure and frustration.

Chamberlain, who has received high praise since his move to Arsenal in August 2011, made
just eight appearances for England U21s before his promotion to the first team and made
his début for England U19s just two years ago. His rapid rise to fame showing just how
popular he has become since he first broke into the Southampton team.

With England keeping just 35% of possession, their attacking players didn’t have many
opportunities to impress in the opposition half. Despite the French domination, however,
and despite Chamberlain’s age, Les Bleus clearly targeted his pace and trickery as a threat
on the break. Together with the vastly experienced Ashley Cole and in-form Young,
Chamberlain was the most-fouled English player but still managed to complete the most
successful dribbles*.

Asked to play slightly ahead of the rest of England’s four-man midfield (set up roughly in a
skewed 4-4-1-1 shape), Chamberlain was absolved of some of his defensive responsibility
and was helped further by Scott Parker covering that flank and France’s tendency to attack
down their left wing. However, he refused to take his relatively free role for granted and
did his bit when Cole was caught out of position with one tackle (and one foul) and two

However, despite Chamberlain’s impressive and assured performance against France,
his substitution on 77 minutes for Jermaine Defoe suggests that his age (and therefore
tendency to tire towards the end of games) and James Milner’s comparatively defensive
attitude means the latter is more important in Hodgson’s short-term plans.

When Wayne Rooney returns from suspension, Hodgson’s tactics at the end of Monday’s
draw indicate that he may prefer a straight 4-4-2 with Young and Milner supporting the two
strikers from the flanks and Chamberlain only used later on.

For now, all Chamberlain can do is continue to impress and hope for more space against
Sweden and Ukraine. But if England get out of their group, the pace of Chamberlain
could be invaluable and he has already shown for Arsenal that he is more than capable of producing moments of magic against some of the best in the world.

*OPTA statistics from
**Statistics from FourFourTwo Stats Zone app.
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.

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