Mini-Interlull: thoughts on Oxlade-Chamberlain
I have long thought that these mini-Interlulls, which take place in the middle of the week robbing a club of its players during an important part of the season, are ludicrous.
They are the Denis Wise of Interlulls. Small but so irritating you would like to thrust them into a wood chipper, Fargo style. So it is again. Not only does it prevent proper preparation for the Sunderland game this weekend, it makes it all go a bit quiet in terms of news. Hence the only Arsenal story of any substance is Theo Walcott talking about playing up front.
I guess he was asked a question and stuff, but I’ve pretty much had my fill of talking about Theo playing up front. And when you look at the last few games, he’s been very good on the right hand side, a position which I think suits him best. He’s scored most of his goals from there and while he might be an emergency option for us should the need arise, I think both team and player are best served with him wide of the main striker.
On Saturday, rotation/resting, saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain play on the left, and he had a fairly mixed game. He had some good moments, a shot well saved by Begovic, but it does look as if he’s suffering a bit from second season syndrome. After an exciting debut season where there was little pressure on him, he’s finding it a little more difficult this time around. Perhaps it’s a combination of expectation plus opponents knowing a bit more about him, but he hasn’t been quite as effective this season.
He spoke about being in and out of the team, recalling some advice given to him by some bloke or other:
I can remember last season, Robin van Persie came and spoke to me. He said ‘When I was first at the club, I didn’t start, the boss used to take me in and out’. Look at the season he had last season, he was a key player. It was the same with Theo. You’ve got to bide your time, especially when you’re young.
He has made 23 appearances this season, some from the bench, but with a fair number of starts too. From that he’s contributed 2 goals and 3 assists in all competitions, which isn’t brilliant, but by the same token he is still 19 and relatively inexperienced. This is all part of his learning process, and some measure of patience is required. There’s a tendency for players in this position to try a bit too hard which just makes life more complicated for themselves than it should be.
If you look at Aaron Ramsey as an example, he’s a guy who had similar issues until quite recently, and while I fully accept playing in his more natural midfield position has helped, so too has his ‘decision’ to simplify his game. Less complication, less trying to impress, has made him much more effective, and that’s definitely something Olxade-Chamberlain can learn and take encouragement from.
I think it’s obvious that the first choice front three is now established as Podolski – Giroud – Walcott. The German’s delivery from the left is first class and his ability to drift inside and get goals is going to be very important between now and the end of the season. Giroud looks to have settled in and found something approaching his groove and Walcott is having his best season in an Arsenal shirt in terms of his goal return.
So it’ll be interesting to see how the players on the bench react to that. Gervinho comes back from the African Cup of Nations after doing quite well and scoring a couple of good goals. He has a lot to do to convince but if he can take some of that form and add it to the goalscoring flurry he enjoyed at the start of the season then we can only benefit from that. Similarly, Oxlade-Chamberlain – who seems comfortable enough either side of the striker – is going to have to respond a bit to play his part.
There’s certainly competition for him and although Arsene Wenger insists he’ll end up a central midfielder, I don’t quite see it happening any time soon. He’s got to get his head down, work hard, improve the basics and contribute from a different part of the pitch. All of which is to suggest that if the player needs to have some patience, so too do the fans. There is a tendency these days to judge a player on a game or two, rather than over the longer period and although he can be frustrating I think there’s a good player there who is simply developing and will have that inconsistency to his game.
Beyond that, little to discuss this morning. Oh, there is the whole match fixing thing but I think we need more details before we accuse every other club and official of being corrupt and out to get us.