It would be fair to say Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has had a disappointing season from a footballing point of view. The step forward most expected him to take hasn’t happened. Those most critical might say he’s taken one the other way, but you’d be hard pressed to argue if someone used the word ‘stagnated’ in relation to what he’s done on the pitch.
He’s currently out injured, having picked up a knee ligament problem against Barcelona almost three weeks ago, but that hasn’t stopped him making some headlines this week.
First up, both the Mirror and the Mail, independent of each other, ran very similar stories yesterday about how he would never consider a move to another London club out of respect for Arsenal, and that his focus was on getting fit again for the Gunners.
An injured player focused on getting fit. Imagine.
Then, in this morning’s Times, Henry Winter writes quite specifically about how Oxlade-Chamberlain is a target for Pep Guardiola when he takes over at Man City this summer.
“Oxlade-Chamberlain is known to have impressed the Bayern Munich coach when starring for Arsenal in their 1-1 Champions League draw with the German side in March 2014,” he writes.
“Although the plan is for Oxlade-Chamberlain to operate on the right if recruited by City, he impressed in the centre at the Allianz Arena two years ago.”
He goes on to hint at how such an approach would be viewed, saying, “The prospect of working with Guardiola, let alone a substantial increase in wages, would likely be tempting to the player, who turns 23 in August.”
And why wouldn’t a substantial increase in wages be tempting to anyone? Of course, when you step back and look at the situation it’s easy to see what’s going on here.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s contract expires in 2018, and as is usual these days, clubs want to avoid a situation where they let a player have fewer than 2 years on their contract. That leaves them open to the threat of a Bosman, and increases the power of the bargaining hand the player holds.
Arsenal have a decision to make about the midfielder this summer. He is clearly somebody who Wenger has a great deal of faith in, and there’s obvious talent and potential there, but it has never manifested itself in any consistent way.
These are the beginnings of new contract brinkmanship, no question, but it’s also worth noting that Oxlade-Chamberlain has been linked with agent Aidy Ward, and he has a bit of history with Man City. He more or less made Raheem Sterling’s position at Liverpool untenable, bringing about the £50m transfer last summer.
Whether he’s involved in this, using his City connections, we’ll have to just wait and see.