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Wenger Should Give Oxlade-Chamberlain A Central Role

 • by Simon Collings
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Listening to Arsene Wenger talk about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain over the past few days, it is easy to understand how highly the Arsenal manager rates the midfielder.

In the Frenchman’s eyes the 24-year-old, who has been at the Emirates since 2011 when he joined from Southampton for an initial fee of £12m, has a huge part to play in the future of the club.

“I want to keep my best players,” says Wenger. “I only have one target: to keep everybody on board.

“I think we invested a lot of time, confidence and money on players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who we bought at a young age.

“For me, they have a responsibility for the future of this club because Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be one of the big English players in the coming years.

“I personally am highly determined to keep him here at the club and I hope he will commit.”


Arsene Wenger on the Future of Alex Oxlade… by FootballWhispers

Such praise is nothing new from Wenger, who throughout last season lauded Oxlade-Chamberlain for his potential.

Indeed, it was only in April that he further outlined how pivotal a role the England international has going forward for Arsenal.

“I want him to be part of Arsenal Football Club for the next 10 years,” said Wenger at the time.

“He is a big player and we live in a world where agents are linked to the press and can always have a tactic to make the whole package come up.

“But at the end of the day it all comes down to – ‘Do you want to be part of that? Do you meet your needs and what is important in your football life here or not?’

“What has changed compared to 20, 30 years ago, no matter where you sign today, you will make money.”

The big problem for Wenger, however, is that Oxlade-Chamberlain is still yet to sign a new deal.

It means the 24-year-old now has only one year to run on his current contract at Arsenal, just like Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

Obviously Wenger wants Oxlade-Chamberlain to stay, but the 24-year-old reportedly wants certain assurances before he puts pen to paper.

Such a delay has sparked major interest from Chelsea, while Liverpool and Manchester City were sniffing round the midfielder earlier this summer.

Crisis talks between the player and Arsenal have reportedly been scheduled for the coming days, although Wenger naturally remains coy on such a meeting.

“We all have our agendas that are quite busy but we do not publish them,” he said.

“Some people look better informed than I am! My secretary has my agenda, I will check what I have to do today.

“All these conversations that I have [I say] that I want him to stay and be one of the big players of the future of this club.

“He is one of the players this team has to be built around in the future. Personally, I want him to commit to the club and to be one of the carriers of the values of our team.”

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Reports at the start of the summer explained why Oxlade-Chamberlain is yet to agree on new terms with Arsenal.

Firstly the midfielder wants to be guaranteed regular first-team football.

During his career with the Gunners so far Oxlade-Chamberlain has made 131 Premier League appearances, but nearly half of those (64 to be precise) have come from the bench.

Secondly the England international still has hopes of playing in a central midfield role.

Also in the mix are the terms Arsenal have offered as the player and his representatives are in a position to claim he should be paid on a par with players Wenger also values highly – and that is in excess of £100,000-a-week.

Chelsea, for example, would pay more and both parties know that.

The money is obviously important, but perhaps it is not everything in this particular case, however strange that may seem in the short career of a footballer.

“Playing for a team like Arsenal, it ends up being more of a right-wing job,” said Oxlade-Chamberlain in May of this year.

“I get the ball from deeper and that plays into my hands more. At the end of the day, it’s given me minutes and I’m not one to complain.

“But, the centre-mid role…I’ve always wanted to be Steven Gerrard, so I’ve still got a hope of that.”

At the moment, such a path looks blocked for Oxlade-Chamberlain at Arsenal.

Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka appear to be Wenger’s first-choice midfield pairing, with Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny acting as their deputies.

There is also the returning Jack Wilshere to consider too.

However, if Wenger is serious about the importance of Oxlade-Chamberlain then he must surely give him a go in the centre of midfield.

The England international has had a few opportunities there, but never has he been given an extended run of 10 games or so in his preferred position.

Wenger claims to see Oxlade-Chamberlain as a cornerstone of the club going forward, yet at the moment he is crowbarring him into the team as a left wing-back.

Admittedly, the 24-year-old is performing well there, but surely if he is to become a leader in the side he needs to be playing centrally as the heartbeat of the team.

Towards the end of last season, Ramsey and Xhaka showed signs of promise together as a pair, but their performance against Stoke City demonstrated that duo is far from perfect.

Oxlade-Chamberlain presents a viable alternative.

No one can question his physical attributes and, while in his youth his composure on the ball could perhaps be challenged, he is maturing rapidly.

Full of energy and with a growing eye for a pass, Oxlade-Chamberlain has the capabilities to play as part of a middle pairing in Arsenal’s 3-4-2-1 formation.

And what is more, while talks rumble on over his future, the opportunity for him to thrive in the middle could well be the turning point for both the club and player when it comes to agreeing to a new contract.

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