When Arsene Wenger surprised the football world on Monday night by fielding a 3-4-2-1 formation, perhaps another surprise was his choice at right wing-back. Despite having the highly-rated Hector Bellerin fit, the Frenchman opted to go for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Now while the change may have been due to Hector’s recent dip in form rather than anything else, it must be said that Oxlade-Chamberlain grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Despite having a rather edgy start to the game, the Englishman was effective at the back and even better going forward, constantly making marauding runs down Arsenal’s right channel, offering width in attack and extra cover in defence. In fact, I feel he was rather unlucky not to get a couple of assists in the game against Boro. Compared to recent years, his final ball also seems to have improved. With some better finishing, he could have even notched up a goal or two.
So with that being said, I really think the former Southampton man should be rewarded for his performance at the Riverside and not be dropped in place of Bellerin for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final clash against Manchester City. The player is growing in confidence and despite his history in high-profile matches, I feel he can be afforded another opportunity to make his mark on this Arsenal side. Considering that he is in peak fitness and raring to go, I don’t see any reason to drop him for Bellerin who has struggled recently.
With Alex’s future still uncertain at the Emirates, giving him regular games at the tail end of the season makes sense as it provides the player an opportunity to show the manager that he is indeed worthy of a new deal and a place in the starting XI. Considering that he’s been around for so long, it is easy to forget that he’s still only 23 years old and he still has time to live up to the hype around him when he arrived as an 18-year-old.