For many, the pall that hangs over the Emirates Stadium every summer has just grown gloomier since the end of last term.
Yet over in the manager’s office at London Colney there is the satisfied sense of a plan coming together. And for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and his father, the former England international winger Mark Chamberlain, that sense is all the more keenly felt.
“I remember on the day I actually signed the manager asked me where I see myself,” Oxlade-Chamberlain said. “My dad was in the room and my dad said, ‘He’s a centre mid, he’s a midfielder’. The boss sort of laughed and said, ‘I think he could be as well’.
“He said maybe to start off with he’ll be out wide and that part of the game will come. Last season I did play the majority on the wing when I did play and had a few games in centre mid. But the boss has been pushing more this season to try my hand in a more central position.”
That move to midfield has come more quickly than anyone anticipated. But then
Oxlade-Chamberlain has rarely been forced to bide his time in football.
Having scored on his home debut and on his
Oxlade-Chamberlain stands out among young English footballers for being highly
engaging and articulate, even when confronted by awkward realities. When
asked if he subscribed to the view that
“That’s not for me to say,” he said. “This is football for you. People have different aspects they want to achieve, different motives and places they want to go as individuals. As a club all I can say is it’s a brilliant football club and I love every minute of every day that I’m here.”
Clearly his mind is just as active when he plays his football. “When I watch people I’m quite a quick learner,” Oxlade-Chamberlain said. “I like to pick up on what people who are in a better position do.
“If you’re watching
It is on Andrés Iniesta that Oxlade-Chamberlain models his game. “You’ll see him playing in midfield and then you’ll see him drifting out wide and he’ll take players on and he scores goals,” he said. “He sees through-balls and at the same time he keeps things ticking and he’ll tackle.
“Even Steven Gerrard, I’ve been watching him since I was a young lad and back in his early days I remember he used to make bursting runs from deep all the way up front and get in the box and score goals.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain is perhaps too young to remember how Patrick Vieira used to do the same for Arsenal. Not since the France international quit the club that made him in 2005 have the Gunners had a player capable of driving at the opposition from the heart of their midfield.
They do now.
“Even when I’m in midfield I’ll still run at people and take people on or drive so I’ll always have that, don’t worry,” Oxlade-Chamberlain said. “When I watch football nowadays I’m watching players and they don’t take people on and I’m thinking, ‘Why hasn’t he done that?’
“I think in that situation I try to make sure I do, if it’s the right option to take people on. That’s a part of my game I try to do every week. Hopefully that will help me to be an exciting player and a fan favourite.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain intends to compensate in some way for the loss of Robin van Persie’s goals: expect the Ox to play box to box. Indeed he certainly has the confidence to dominate games. When asked about the size of his task in replacing Song he replied: “Big shoes to fill? You’ve got that anywhere at Arsenal.
“We’re all confident players, and it’s Arsenal Football Club. If we didn’t believe we were going to win the league then there’s something wrong.”