The uncertainty surrounding Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s Arsenal future continues to rumble on. The versatile midfielder has just 12 months remaining on his current deal and recent reports suggest he has no intention of extending his stay at the Emirates.
The Liverpool Echo claim the red half of Merseyside are keeping a close eye on Oxlade-Chamberlain’s contract negotiations and are ready to test Arsenal’s resolve with a £25million bid if the player continues to refuse to sign an extension.
Back in February, reports in the Daily Mirror claimed the 23-year-old was at the centre of a tug-of-war between Pep Guardiola’s City and Ronald Koeman’s Everton side.
It was the Daily Mirror again who reported that Chelsea were to rival Liverpool for the signature of the midfielder.
Then there’s Arsenal.
Arsène Wenger obviously has belief in his utility man, stating that it would be a huge mistake to let him leave.
“I personally think it’s vital that Chamberlain stays at Arsenal,” Wenger admitted.
“We bought him when he was very young and built him up. He has a great mentality and a good football brain and it would be big damage for us to lose this kind of player.”
The French boss reiterated that he believed the club needed to try and retain their core of young British players.
“We have to keep them all. Ramsey, Chamberlain, Wilshere, Gibbs. All these players we have to make decisions and manage to keep them together.”
It’s obvious that ‘the Ox’ has something in his game, why else would there be a queue for his signature. Yet, his place in the Gunners team is far from secured, starting just 16 of his 29 Premier League appearances.
Why such a demand?
Last season, he has played in central midfield on a few occasions and the results have been very positive. It seems to bring out the best attributes in his game and allows him some freedom to attack.
It’s perhaps why Liverpool are said to be his favoured destination, with reports implying Jürgen Klopp would use him in a central role.
The idea to use him in such a way was originally formulated to compensate for injuries and Mohamed Elneny being away on international duty. Oxlade-Chamberlain has taken the impressive parts of his game and combined it with a similar drive that Santi Cazorla showed in the position, something that he was asked about before the win over West Ham United.
“Definitely,” he told the Arsenal matchday programme.
“I want to be someone that first and foremost does their defensive job and does what the team requires in terms of being a solid midfielder who can get the ball, keep the ball moving and put the ball into areas for players like Alexis, Theo, Danny or Olivier going in behind.
“But I can definitely add that part of the game, where I pick the ball up deep and drive past players and open things up.
“In a funny way I find it a lot easier to do that in central midfield, maybe because the players aren’t as quick there.”
Against West Bromwich Albion, with his team 2-1 down, although they would go on to lose, Oxlade-Chamberlain showed exactly what he mentioned. Picking the ball up deep in his own half, he has space to exploit and bursts forward up the pitch. He almost loses his footing, but does enough to get the ball out wide.
There were even moments against Bayern Munich at the Emirates when he was able to turn in the middle of the park, power past Arturo Vidal and push the ball into space. The 23-year-old winger’s characteristics are perfect for this type of attack and it’s something the other options in that role can’t bring to the table.
Not everyone is convinced, with Tony Cascarino writing in his column for The Times that playing Oxlade-Chamberlain in the centre of the park was a dangerous move for England.
“He is a fine footballer but he is not the best defensively and at international level he makes the team vulnerable in the centre of the pitch.
“He would be far better out wide, trying to play in a similar style to Raheem Sterling, as he is also a tricky player who can beat his man, which is just what this England team is in need of.”
There is an element of truth to this, with the former Southampton man making two fouls per 90 minutes in his new position.
In terms of successful tackles and interceptions, he was averaging 2.6 and one per 90 respectively. Considering this is a new formation and the others are defensive specialists, there has to be a certain level of respect for the way he has picked it up.
Playing against Hull City, there was a dangerous moment early in the first half when Andrew Robertson was played down the channel. Oxlade-Chamberlain had the awareness to see the run, the speed to chase him down and then the strength and defensive ability to put enough pressure on the full-back to affect the cross.
At just 23 years old, it will seem a waste if Arsenal were to allow Oxlade-Chamberlain to move on at this stage of his career. Although, it depends what he wants in terms of a new deal.
He’s reportedly only on £65,000 per week on his current deal and has rejected a deal worth £80,000 per week.
Reports suggest he wants closer to £100,000, which is what Manchester United squad player Jesse Lingard is reportedly earning at Old Trafford now.
Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott earn £110,000 per week, the England international could argue he deserves that level and with the way he is playing in a multitude of positions, it’s hard to argue against him.
Arsenal’s loss could be another club’s gain, because every team in the world needs a Swiss army knife sort of player like Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Utility men are undervalued in the modern game and seen as squad fillers. If anything, they’re one of the most important members of a squad. It saves a manager having to sign two or three players to fill those roles.
It’s more cost effective paying him the £100,000 per week he wants than it is paying a number of players £50/60,000 per week. Signing Oxlade-Chamberlain could be shrewd business.