Arsene Wenger promises to make more use of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the second half of the season now that the summer signing has made the necessary improvements in his game.
The Southampton academy graduate has proved himself an exciting, albeit occasionally defensively naïve, addition to the first team squad but has yet to be afforded regular Premier League minutes.
Nevertheless, with Gervinho at the African Cup of Nations, Andrey Arshavin struggling for form and Yossi Benayoun and Tomas Rosicky lacking the explosive burst of pace needed to be fully effective on the wings it looks as though the England under-21 international is a serious candidate for a starting berth.
Speaking to Arsenal Player about Chamberlain’s development, Wenger confirmed he was ready to unleash ‘The Ox’:
“He is very close now and he will be used in the next six months for sure.
“He is working on [his defensive side], his urgency and his committed level as well.
“When you are a young, talented player you have to experience that talent is good, but that commitment at the top level is highly needed too.
“He is an intelligent boy, he understands that, and I am very happy with him. I am confident that in the next few weeks he will play.”
Chamberlain will no doubt be hoping to travel with the Gunners to Swansea on Sunday after a tidy showing against Leeds in the FA Cup. It remains to be seen who Wenger picks as a replacement for Gervinho although with Arshavin and Thierry Henry also vying for a starting berth the boss has a tough decision.
Reflecting on Henry’s attempts to up his game-day sharpness, Wenger continued:
“Thierry works very hard, is doing extra sessions and is highly motivated. He wants to help out so he makes extra sessions to try and get back to his full fitness.
“He is not there yet but he is not far from the level he was at when he left here [in 2007]. He is fit enough to start a game but not fit enough to last or play the whole thing.
“Those are the decisions I always have to make considering the balance of the team. He is here to help out in any way – that is even what he proposed. Does he sometimes start? Does he sometimes come on? That’s what I have to decide. He is in the squad for Sunday.”