Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin is a player we all know and adore, having seen him arrive three years ago from Southampton. Since then, he has been making waves at the Emirates and at the age of just 20 he has over 50 league caps and 15 appearances for the national side. It’s fair to say things have gone well since his arrival in North London.
However, I can’t help but think what might have been- especially after last season. Oxlade-Chamberlain was set for a break through year at the club until an ACL injury on the opening day ruled him out for the majority of the season. When he finally returned months later, the club was in a completely different shape.
The arrival of Mesut Ozil meant the central role in the trio behind the striker was filled regularly. The likes of Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky were forced out wide for the majority of the time, presenting Oxlade-Chamberlain with stiff competition for a place on the flanks.
He did start to show that his future lies in central midfield but again, he faces a lot of competition for a regular starting berth there- with Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere just two further players, who are also young, fighting for that place. It’s clear Oxlade-Chamberlain will play a key-part in Arsenal’s season this year but it may well be off the bench.
Last summer, I was fortunate enough to bump into Oxlade-Chamberlain in Nike town. What struck me most was his excitement for the new season, in our brief chat he told me how excited he was for the new campaign and I wished him the best of luck- little did we know what was awaiting on the first day of the new campaign.
After an injury plagued season, mixed with a horrendous England World Cup campaign, Oxlade-Chamberlain will enter the season more determined than ever before. Last season was his breakthrough year but injury prevented that from happening. Fortunately, due to his age, the breakthrough year has just been delayed- this year is his for the taking.
Last season we saw Aaron Ramsey emerge as arguably our greatest asset. He returned from injuries, got the crowd off his back and fired us to Premier League contention. An injury to the Welshman derailed our campaign but he showed his worth once again in the glorious, yet nerve-wracking, FA Cup final victory over Hull City.
A similar scenario could be witnessed form Oxlade-Chamberlain. With the battle for places on the wing and in central midfield, Oxlade-Chamberlain will know he has to be at top form in order to receive regular starting positions. This will drive him on- we’ve already seen how brilliant a player he is but we should be excited to prepare to witness the emergence of a great.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is my outside bet for player of the season. He enters it with plenty of determination and little expectation, as everyone knows how horrendous the past twelve months have been for the young Englishman. He can use this to his benefit, take people by surprise and emerge as a long-term candidate for our key-player this decade.
We’re now blessed with a squad that can compete both externally and internally. The battle for positions is glorious with the squad depth we are creating, which will only be strengthened by the arrival of more assets this summer. We’ve spent years waiting for this to happen and now, we can enjoy it.
With all those players, all those big names and all those starters- it’s still Oxlade-Chamberlain that excites me the most. He has a lot to offer and I can’t wait to see it week in, week out. This is his breakthrough year. This campaign is his for the taking. I can’t help but use this cliche- this is the year of the Ox.