by Mosope Ominiyi
The Community Shield on Sunday saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain score the only goal as Arsenal beat Chelsea at Wembley.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has shown flashes of individual brilliance despite the frustration of being injured rather frequently over the past two years, is one of the players pushing for a regular start in Arséne’s team.
The young forward, who turns 22 in a fortnight, has been with the Gunners since his £15m move from Southampton in August of 2011. At the time, Arsenal were eager to strengthen their squad with world-class players so you could excuse the skepticism shown when a relatively unknown youngster was brought for a hefty fee.
That being taken into account though, The Ox has done his reputation justice despite not scoring as many goals as he perhaps would have liked to. In over 100 games for the north Londoners, he has netted 13 and created 19 assists – hardly eye-catching, but a modest figure for a youngster who continues to improve, especially if you consider how many injuries he’s suffered and the cameo appearances he has featured in.
He’s had seven injuries since the summer of 2011, which is quite unfortunate to say the least. Most of which have stemmed from troublesome groin and knee problems, which the Englishman is doing his best to rectify.
This campaign is arguably his biggest opportunity to assert himself as one of Arsenal’s most prominent players. The depth within the team continues to strengthen year-upon-year and with eight or nine players all competing for a starting berth, you have to take your chances when they naturally come.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, has done exactly that. This pre-season, no matter how much you may ridicule its importance, has been an excellent one for Alex.
Having impressed during the club’s pre-season tour in Asia, as well as excelling with the counter-attacking brilliance at the Emirates Cup, The Ox will feel rightly aggrieved if he’s not in Wenger’s plans for the new campaign.
Malaysia, Everton, Lyon, VfL Wolfsburg. They all tried, they all failed. Chelsea was undoubtedly going to be the biggest test of the summer, as Arsenal were eager to gauge how far they’ve progressed over the past few months.
What better place to do it then, but Wembley – where they secured consecutive FA Cup triumphs and became the first team to do it since? Yep, you guessed it. Chelsea (2008-09, 2009-10).
In the glorious west London sunshine, The Ox was Arsenal’s brightest player as they stormed in-front before the half-hour mark this past afternoon. Just a few seconds in, he already found himself on the ball as he floated a teasing cross towards Thibaut Courtois’ near post, which the Belgian did well to parry to safety with a few players lurking to nod home.
It was clear from the off-set that Oxlade-Chamberlain knew what he had to do to frustrate the Chelsea backline. Drive in-behind from the flanks, hassle the opposing full-back, and create chances for his team-mates to fashion chances from, if not take his own.
Despite Chelsea boasting the majority of possession, the Gunners made their early opportunities count, and it was The Ox who broke the deadlock, in some style it must be said. Patient build-up play near the flank saw the ball fizzed towards Walcott, who looked up and spotted Oxlade-Chamberlain in space to his right. He passed across, Chamberlain weaved his way into the box before slamming a low drive into the corner of the net, giving Courtois no chance of saving it – having left Cesar Azpilicueta in his wake dumbfounded.
As the game began to open up, there was no signs of slowing down from The Ox. His blistering speed, as well as his tricky dribbling and ability to beat a defender or two with seeming ease meant he was a constant pest for Mourinho’s men to deal with – no wonder Azpilicueta had such a hard time marking him.
He looked to get more involved as the second-half began and was often seen doing some defensive work, pressing opposing players to win possession and cut out attacks near the flanks with the scoreline staying the same.
Azpilicueta was booked midway through the second-half for a rather cynical foul on Chamberlain, after the youngster’s strength and agility was too much to handle for the Spaniard before he was evidently pulled back by the scruff of his shirt. Nemanja Matic had to help double up marking the tricky forward, whose teasing cross to substitute Olivier Giroud was inch-perfect, but the Frenchman struggled to connect with the ball properly and his effort flashed wide, not troubling Courtois.
Then with just over ten minutes to play, the game’s Man of the Match was replaced by club captain Mikel Arteta – met by a warm round of applause around the ground for the hard graft that Chamberlain had put in throughout from start to finish.
These types of displays not only give encouragement ahead of the new season, they also excite. And I for one, as his biggest fan, am very excited for what the future holds. The scary thing to note is, he’s only just getting started.