Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a game-time clause in his Arsenal contract, according to a claim made by football writer Alan Gernon, but did that really affect how often Arsene Wenger played him?

In his new book “The Transfer Market: The Inside Stories”, Gernon wrote that Oxlade-Chamberlain had a clause in his Arsenal deal that meant every time he played 20 minutes for Arsenal, they owed Southampton £10,000. The writer then went on to claim that this is why the Englishman was used so sparingly.

“Following Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s move to Arsenal in 2011, Gunners fans became increasingly frustrated with the midfielder’s lack of playing time,” Gernon wrote. “He was predominantly used as a substitute, often around the 71-minute mark.

“After his contract details emerged, it all became clear: Arsenal were obliged to pay Southampton £10,000 every time he played 20 minutes or more.”

I don’t know about you, but this story screams ‘conspiracy theory’ to me. It’s perfectly possible that Oxlade-Chamberlain had this clause in his deal, don’t get me wrong. He wouldn’t be the first to have a clause based around playing time.

However, to suggest that Wenger deliberately waited until the last 20 minutes just to save £10,000, even if it made more sense to bring on the winger earlier, strikes me as ridiculous. To try and establish the truth of the matter, I went and did some research.

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LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 15: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal prepares to subbed on for Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Swansea City at Emirates Stadium on October 15, 2016, in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

In his six-year spell at Arsenal, Oxlade-Chamberlain made 83 substitute appearances. 29 of them came before the 70-minute mark, and 54 came after.

On the surface, this does suggest a bit of a preference towards bringing him on in the final 20 minutes. That’s completely normal though, especially for young players trying to break into the first team like Ox was.

Here’s a list of some other Arsenal stars and their substitute appearances before and after the 70th minute under Arsene Wenger:

  • Jack Wilshere – 18 before, 29 after
  • Aaron Ramsey – 39 before, 53 after
  • Alex Iwobi – 8 before, 19 after
  • Reiss Nelson – 1 before, 7 after
  • Ainsley Maitland-Niles – 6 before, 8 after

Next, let’s look at the specific claim that Wenger often used Oxlade-Chamberlain around the 71st-minute mark.

In all of those 83 substitute appearances, the Arsenal boss brought Ox on in the 71st minute four times, in the 72nd minute three times and in the 73rd minute twice. By comparison, he introduced Ox in the 70th minute three times, the 69th minute three times and the 68th minute twice.

In total, that’s nine substitutions in the three minutes after the 70th, and eight substitutions in the three minutes before. Hardly a substantial difference.

All this to say, there’s really no proof that Wenger deliberately risked throwing matches just to save a few pounds. The 58 matches where Ox played less than 20 minutes (either through being subbed on late or subbed off early) are far outweighed by the 140 matches he played more than that.

For the record, if the 25-year-old played more than 20 minutes in all of those 58 matches as well, it would’ve cost Arsenal an extra £580,000. Pocket change for a club who eventually sold the player to Liverpool for £35,000,000.