When Alex Oxlade Chamberlain arrived at Arsenal in 2011, he was the most sought after young talent in England. He had it all – pace, dribbling ability, end product and incredible strength for such a young player. The move was supposed to see him develop into one of the top talents in world football, with his father, Mark Chamberlain, insisting that Arsène Wenger was the only man that could take his son to the pinnacle of the game.
Six years later and with just 12 months left on his Arsenal contract, the Ox appears to be swapping north London for East London. His time at Arsenal has been a learning curve, if nothing else. He’s failed to deliver on a consistent basis and has faced tough treatment from Wenger. A return of 20 goals in 195 games is disastrously poor for an attacking midfielder and one that suggests that he simply hasn’t developed.
After switching to a 3-5-2 following a terrible run of form, Arsène Wenger experimented with Oxlade-Chamberlain at right wing back. And it was an experiment that paid off. He had finally found his position. Except, that’s not where he wants to play. Despite playing his best football in years, he has publicly stated that he wants to play in centre midfield and sees himself as a Steven Gerrard type player.
This form has encouraged Antonio Conte to prioritise the England international and this move must surely be based on his form at right wing-back. No manager would pay £35m for a right winger / right wing-back with the intention of playing him in central midfield. Especially not a manager like Conte, who believes in putting round pegs in round holes, not experimenting in the most crucial area of the pitch.
Victor Moses impressed in the wing back role for Chelsea last season but doesn’t have the flair or talent of Oxlade Chamberlain. He is more of a powerful, functional player and it’s fair to say he is one of the weaker links in an organised Chelsea squad. With this in mind, it’s safe to assume that this is the position Conte has in mind for the Ox.
Despite selling Nemanja Matić to Manchester United, Chelsea still look very strong in the middle of the park, with N’golo Kanté, Tiémoué Bakayoko and Cesc Fábregas. The Ox isn’t close to the level of any of these players. They’re all specialists in their position, as their medal collection will testify. If Oxlade-Chamberlain is to get playing time in the middle of the park for Chelsea, it will be to fill in for an injury to one of these players, not because he is first choice.
At this point in his career, a move away from Arsenal is probably best for both parties. He’s failed to develop during his time at the Emirates but, with the right coach, that enormous potential could finally be unlocked. At the same time, Arsenal will be laughing all the way to the bank with their £35m cheque.