After suffering yet another Bayern Munich battering in the UEFA Champions League there was one stand out positive in Tuesday’s game. A player who’s been in tremendous form recently playing in a position not many are used to seeing him in.
Yes it was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in central midfield. After the game it’s been reported that The Ox wants a move away from North London in the summer but at the moment he is a crucial part of the team. With his contract up at the end of next season Arsenal fans have made it crystal clear that they want him to stay and anybody could see why.
Even though Alexis Sanchez has been seen as the main player showing passion in the Arsenal team Chamberlain is up there too. We’ve seen this when he showed his frustration at the Allianz and Emirates in both legs against Bayern as well as seemingly leaving the pitch in tears on Tuesday.
For a number of weeks The Ox has been putting in quite impressive performances in the middle of the park and has arguably been Arsenal’s best player when playing there. He’s showed in games like Tuesday’s defeat to Bayern as well as Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat to Chelsea in February, that he’s capable of producing standout performances against some of the best players in Europe. Despite the Arsenal squad coming under scrutiny of late for a lack of leadership he is definitely a player who is leading by example with these displays.
Even though Chamberlain made a strong start to this season out wide, scoring many goals early on and currently having six to his name, his form did start to dip a little near the turn of the year. But by moving into central midfield the Gunners have found one positive in what has been quite a stressful period for the club.
His first taste of playing in the midfield this season came in his return to St. Mary’s as Arsenal beat Southampton 5-0 in the F.A. Cup. Chamberlain’s transition into the midfield only seemed natural when watching him burst forward, release wide players with clever passes and even when he played an inch perfect long ball to assist Danny Welbeck’s second goal of the game.
These qualities that were on display at the 23-year-old’s boyhood club back in the beginning of February have been nothing short of replicated almost every game after that. Arsenal’s 2nd leg against Bayern was just another platform for him to strut his stuff. Chamberlain completed 10/10 take ons against what was an amazing Bayern side, that’s more than double supposed take on king Eden Hazard’s average per game in the Premier League. He also got the fans on their feet with his turn against Arturo Vidal in the first half, opening up the midfield along with playing very smart passes in the game like his reverse pass which led to Theo Walcott’s penalty shout.
But this isn’t the first time The Ox has impressed in the middle of the park for Arsenal. If you jog your memory back to the 2013/14 season he made a few notable appearances in the centre of Arsenal’s midfield.
Most memorably at home against Crystal Palace, who believe it or not were only in their first season back in the Premier League at the time, the game saw a younger Oxlade-Chamberlain bag a brace after driving up the pitch for both goals, one a right footed finish from the edge of the box into the bottom corner and the other a wonderful left footed chip over Julian Speroni.
Like this year he also had an exceptional game against Bayern Munich that season when playing centrally, dribbling past numerous players in a moment of magic from him so why can’t he play there more often.
With such a scrambled selection dilemma when it comes to the Gunners midfield I think that he is an obvious starter in there. Personally I believe he plays much better there and could be used there on a regular basis for the rest of this season at least, that way Walcott can continue playing down the right wing where he has been exceptional this season and The Ox can play in what I think is his best position.
But whether Arsenal manage to keep him this summer as well as play him in central midfield for the rest of this season, we’ll see.