Arsene Wenger says Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has the speed and dribbling capability to nail down a role in the centre of midfield.
The England international has played most of his football in a wide position since moving to Arsenal in 2011 but was handed a chance to impress in the middle against Sunderland in last weekend’s 3-1 FA Cup win.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s game with Liverpool, the boss noted: “He has the attributes to play in central midfield, he has that important quality – a little surge to get out of pressure.
“One of the things to get out of pressure is to have a little dribble to get away from the guy who closes you down and nobody has that more than Oxlade-Chamberlain.
“That is why he could be suited for the modern game because he has that capacity to get out of the pressure.
“That is why I played 4-3-3 [against Sunderland] because he is really suited to be right-sided, box to box in a 4-3-3 – he really fits in there.”
While most would agree that Chamberlain’s passing and decision making was a little erratic on Saturday, his ability to burst away from opponents later in the game provided the perfect springboard for a series of counter attacks.
Arseblog News recalls the 22-year-old fulfilling a similar role in 2012 against AC Milan in the Champions League as we gloriously failed to overturn a 4-0 first leg deficit. The Ox – field in the middle due to an injury crisis – was mighty fine in that 3-0 victory, with his powerful, pounding runs scaring the bejesus out of the Italians.
Since then, opportunities in the heart of midfield have been few and far between, in part because the boss has had several more orthodox options and possibly because he’s been trying to ‘shorten the technique’ of Chamberlain by playing him on the touchline; much like he’s done with Messrs Ramsey, Wilshere…and er…Diaby.
Given our central options – when everyone is fit – it’s hard to see the Ox getting regular game time, but it’s an experiment we’re happy to observe for the time being.