Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could leave Arsenal this summer, but would his departure change the Gunners’ best starting eleven?
If you asked people to create their ideal starting eleven out of Arsenal’s current squad, I’m willing to bet not many of them would feature the Englishman.
That’s not a slight against his ability. Rather, it’s a reference to the fact that despite being an Arsenal player for six years, Oxlade-Chamberlain has yet to find a real home in the starting line-up. Right-wing, left-wing, central-midfield, right wing-back, left wing-back, he’s a jack of all trades but master of none.
It’s for this reason the prospect of the 23-year-old leaving this summer doesn’t seem all that bad. Arsenal would be losing someone who could be a vital member of the starting eleven but has yet to reach that level. Whereas players like Ozil and Alexis are more guaranteed and consistent performers, there’s still an air of uncertainty about the utility man that makes it difficult to put him in a starting line-up and be confident that he’ll produce for a long period.
If we go by the end of last season, it seemed Oxlade-Chamberlain could have a future as a wing-back. The role is close to a traditional winger. While his defending still needed work, he looked physically and technically suited to the role.
Yet, to cultivate the former Southampton man as a right wing-back would require Hector Bellerin to drop out of the team. The Spaniard is a far more balanced option, more comfortable defending either as a wing-back or full-back, while still offering a threat in attack. There’s no obvious reason why he should be dropped to make way for the Ox.
Elsewhere, the two attacking spots behind the striker are reserved for Ozil and Alexis, while left wing-back is taken by Sead Kolasinac. That leaves central-midfield as the only place the England international could be a consistent starter. But that brings along its own set of questions. Does he has the quality and consistency to perform there for a top side? Should he play there over Ramsey or a potential new signing? At the moment, the answer to both of those questions would be no.
Make no mistake, losing Chambo would be a blow to Arsenal. His versatility is incredibly useful to the squad, and it’d be a massive shame to lose someone the Gunners have spent a lot of time and money investing in. However, while it would be a setback, it wouldn’t be a major one.
It wouldn’t be the sort of loss that would set Arsenal back a couple of years as they struggle for a replacement. Nor would Arsenal have to adjust their starting line-up, given they have players capable of playing in every one of his positions. Compared to the damage that others leaving could cause, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s departure would be tame.