Ok, ok. So we all want some defensive signings. And we have done for quite some time. Can anyone remember the last time you watched Arsenal and didn’t have your heart jump into your mouth every time the opposition put in a cross, or their keeper launches a long-ball over the top? Me neither. Lots of us fans were hoping that our manager, Monsieur Wenger, might finally address these issues in the close-season. Wenger had the appearance of a man who had seen his life’s work burn to the ground toward the end of last season. At the risk of sounding dramatic, that may well have been the case. However, it may have been worth it if our famously-stubborn manager had decided to adapt his strategy of purist football. It was finally time to accept that all beautiful things in life have an ugly side.
Fast forward several months and yesterday the Club announced the signing of Southampton youth product Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It is easy to be negative given the summer us Arsenal fans have had to endure. It started out with optimism, dare I say it, even excitement. I thought that Arsene Wenger, with the appearance of a broken man after the capitulation that left us trophy-less for a sixth straight season, had finally awoken to the realities of the situation.
In recent times, teams including Aston Villa, Everton, Tottenham, and Manchester City have been added to the list of challengers for Champions League spots. If we look then at Chelsea and Manchester United, there is a need for quality, experience and depth. Most Arsenal fans were hoping that Wenger would address these areas this summer in order to put the team in contention for a Premier League win, something we all crave.
Where City signed stars such as Gael Clichy and Sergio Aguero, United recruited Ashley Young and Phil Jones. Arsenal - to date - have made only three signings, none of them the commanding central defender or aggressive midfielder fans had hoped for.
The latest Arsenal acquisition, however, is not to blame for this. As fans, it is worth remembering not to take out our disappointment on a young footballer who has been given a fantastic opportunity by Arsenal Football Club. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could yet become an iconic player in the club’s history, much like Lionel Messi at Barcelona. Will anybody be moaning then?
So then, welcome to Arsenal, Alex. With a name like that, I suspect we will have to get pretty inventive when it comes to chants and songs! Make no mistake, AOC is a bright young player, already deemed ready for the first-team squad. The central-midfielder-cum-winger has a great chance of breaking into the team sooner rather than later, particularly considering his self-confessed versatility:
"I've always liked to play as a central midfielder," Oxlade-Chamberlain has said. "But recently I've been playing out wide and I feel happy there."
Arsene Wenger himself goes on to say:
"He can play as an attacking centre midfielder, or wide left and right.
"Alex is a perceptive passer of the ball and has a great understanding of the game and looks to be a very good team player."
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 1st interview.
The fantastic Jamie Sanderson (@YoungGunsBlog on twitter) has given more insight into AOC in his Mirror column. Although he mainly played as a winger in his breakthrough campaign last season, AOC has the intelligence and skill to play in the middle of the park, a position he started out in. Perhaps Sanderson’s most important observation however, is that AOC is no Walcott “clone”. AOC seems to be mentally and physically tougher and is described as being “further ahead in his development than Theo was at the same age”.
AOC has benefited from a great football education at the famed Southampton academy that has produced the likes of Gareth Bale and our own Theo Walcott. If some of you are worried that AOC might struggle with the same demons faced by Theo, namely consistency and suspicions of poor football intelligence, allow me to allay those fears. Alex is the son of former England international Mark Chamberlain. The Guardian’s Louise Taylor explains that when Alex was young his Dad taught him “to kick a ball in the back garden... [making] sure his son became almost equally adept with both feet”. Alex has been constantly reminded of the need for end-product whilst maintaining a strict adherence to technique. The result is a player who is tactically aware and efficient. If you add the natural attributes of pace and agility, AOC could yet develop into that big-name player that fans crave.
In the end, it is simply too early to tell whether this signing will be a success. By definition, it is already too early to decide it will be a failure. We still have a couple of weeks to get in some defensive signings, so in the meantime let’s enjoy a real coup for the club – the signing of a coveted young English player.
For those of you that need further cheering up – check out this hilarious ditty from @gunnerblog:
Follow John Charalambous on Twitter @jon8oy86