After another inconsistent game from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on Saturday against Watford, people have once again started to ask the question: what should we do with the Ox?
The forward is now 23 years old. When we bought him from Southampton in 2011 (yes, that’s five years ago) he was supposed to be the next big British player. He was young but Arsene Wenger believed in him so much that we paid a reported £15m.
Since then, the promise that we once saw has not only stalled but he appears to have almost moved backwards. The energetic, fearless character he once had as a teenager now seems rash and wasteful. What we could excuse back then as inexperience now appears foolish.
In five years, the Ox has made 152 appearances in all competitions, scored just 15 goals and assisted 21. It’s not good enough, no matter what way you look at it.
Sure, he’s been dealt a bad hand in terms of injuries. He’s been sidelined for long stretches of time ever since he moved to north London. But pondering about where he could be if he had been fit for more or less the half-decade he’s been with us is completely useless. It is what it is.
So, how many more chances does he get?
The winger shows flashes of brilliance in 10-second bursts. He can score out of nothing, surge forward and tear through defences but in the next breath, forget to track back, lose the ball or simply switch off and we’ve conceded. This is a regular occurrence and one that actually led to Watford scoring on Saturday.
A loan move would probably have been far more useful to the Ox than any other forward in the team. I’m sure with regular football he could improve a lot – there is still something amazing there and I do, honestly, like him as a player when he’s using his head. However, at the moment, he’s too eager to please, runs himself ragged in the first half and then switches off in the second. It’s not good enough. Something has to give.