When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Arsenal from Southampton back in the summer of 2011 for £15 million, manager Arsene Wenger could not stop praising him. Wenger highlighted his versatility to play as an attacking midfielder, a central midfielder, out wide or left, and outlined his passing ability. At the time it seemed that the Oxlade-Chamberlain would develop into a complete midfielder.
Six years on, and the 23-year-old has still not established himself in the Arsenal first team on a regular basis. The England international has been able to make only 12 starts in the Premier League this season, while during the 2015-16 campaign, he featured in 22 league matches.
Competition for a place in the Arsenal midfield is fierce, and it seems that Oxlade-Chamberlain is a casualty of that. When everyone is fit, the Englishman has to compete with Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny for a place in the Gunners’ midfield.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s current contract with Arsenal runs until June 2018, but he has been linked with a move away from the Emirates Stadium in the summer transfer window. Manchester United are reportedly interested in the midfielder, and if you look for betting promotions on Paddy Power, then you will find some very interesting odds on Liverpool’s chances to sign him. The question for Arsenal now is whether to sell him in the summer or persevere with him.
Based on recent performances, it would make sense for Arsenal to hand Oxlade-Chamberlain a new contract. The England international midfielder has been deployed in the central midfield position in recent weeks, more due to to necessity than due to Wenger’s choice, and he has done quite well. Back in February, Alexis Sanchez scored both the goals for Arsenal against Hull City in a 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium, but it was Oxlade-Chamberlain’s performance in central midfield that stood out.
Oxlade-Chamberlain needs regular playing time to progress as a footballer. What the 23-year-old needs is a manager who shows him faith and allows him time to develop. Wenger is that kind of manager, but the Frenchman is under immense pressure to bring success to the Emirates. Arsenal have not won the Premier League title since 2004, and if Wenger remains at the Gunners next season, then he may not be able to allow Oxlade-Chamberlain the time that he deserves.
The problem with selling Oxlade-Chamberlain in the summer transfer window is that Arsenal are only going to make the buying club stronger. Imagine if Manchester United were to sign him. Jose Mourinho would get a young central midfielder who would add more depth to his squad and enhance the Red Devils’ chances of winning the Premier League title in the 2017-18 season.
Arsenal should keep Oxlade-Chamberlain for at least one more season. Even if the Englishman is tempted by offers in the summer, the Gunners should do their best to convince him to remain at the Emirates for the 2017-18 campaign and try to fulfil his potential there.