Kieran Spring for the Nilsen Report

 

 Twitter @KieranSpring

 

For many of you sports fans this name means nothing to you, pills even for many of you football fans (yes, I refer to soccer in its proper term). But if by chance you live across the pond in the UK you are most certainly becoming quite familiar with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and very quickly. The young man first started making headlines after his summer move from championship side Southampton to Arsenal for an impressive estimated £12million (that’s nearly $19million). That might seem like pocket change compared to other transfers in modern day football such as Fernando Torres’ £50million move to Chelsea last January but let’s keep in mind Oxlade-Chamberlain was only 17 years old at the time. Born August 15, 1993 he has since turned 18 after moving to London but if you’ve had the pleasure of watching him in recent weeks you’d have no idea he was only 18 years old.

At first Oxlade-Chamberlain found first team football hard to come by during his time as a Gunner. Oxlade-Chamberlain plays as a winger and with the likes of Theo Walcott, Gervinho, and Andrei Arshavin, all full internationals, in the Arsenal squad it was always going to be difficult to get a consistent run in the team. His Arsenal debut came last August as a substitute in an 8-2 thrashing at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford, a day that all Arsenal fans, including myself, just want to forget. In the very rare appearances that Oxlade-Chamberlain made in the first half of the season he impressed. He became the youngest player ever to score in Champions League last September against Greek outfit Olympiacos. It has only been recently though that Oxlade-Chamberlain has grabbed the attention of the football world. With the departure of Gervinho to the African Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast in January, and the poor form of Russian international Arshavin, it has opened up the door wide open for the youngster.

His blistering pace is the first thing you notice while watching the young lad at work. The ease at which he can glide past opposing defenders or catch a loose pass is mind blowing. This pace he possesses combined with his young age prompted comparisons with fellow Arsenal winger Theo Walcott. Walcott who is also a Southampton product (as is Gareth Bale, Chris Baird, Leon Best, Wayne Bridge…some top quality footballers) was the youngest player ever to go to the World Cup when he was included in England’s squad at the 2006 World Cup at only 17 years of age. Walcott can also run the 100m sprint in almost sub 10 seconds which is world class; let’s not forget he’s only a footballer not a track star. So to be compared to the likes of Theo Walcott should be pretty flattering for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then, right? Well I don’t think it’s flattering enough. Walcott is a top quality footballer there’s no doubt about that but he’s not consistent enough and his technical ability lets him down on numerous occasions. That’s where Oxlade-Chamberlain is on a completely different level. He has the incredible pace that will astonish you but he’s also got the technical ability that makes him a joy to watch and a complete nightmare to play against. He’s a classic winger that will take you on 1v1 on the sideline and he’s so dangerous because he’s not just one dimensional. He can beat you down the touchline with pace and then pick out a teammate in the danger zone with a telling cross. He can also beat you inside with a little trickery. What makes him so effective is he plays with his head up, it sounds so simple but it’s true about any sport. He sees the game very well as a result, he can pick a pass anywhere on the field. Arsene Wenger has him playing out wide in the midfield as he has done for years with Southampton, but Oxlade-Chamberlain has said himself that he could play in the centre of midfield and I have to say he possesses the qualities to play there if he wants to. I think he could also play as and out and out striker if he really wanted to because he’s shown he’s got the ability to finish. He’s got an impressive return of goals with 4 in 12 appearances for Arsenal. Considering most of those are substitute appearances and the fact that he is playing in the midfield it’s even more impressive. He’s a well rounded footballer and a great athlete as well. Very well built for a footballer which I think helps him a great deal as a young man who finds himself playing against some of the best footballers in the world already.

The future looks extremely promising for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. As an Arsenal fan I’m ecstatic about his move from Southampton last summer, he’s got the potential to become an Arsenal legend. Let’s all hope that Manchester City doesn’t come in and steal him away with money in the coming years as I’m sure many top clubs in Europe will be trying to lure him away. It’s just a matter of time before Oxlade-Chamberlain gets his first senior cap for England as well. Is he perhaps a surprising selection for Euro 2012? I think he’s capable of performing at the international stage. It’ll be interesting to see the makeup of the England squad now that Fabio Capello has resigned and a new manager, whoever that may be, is coming in. Be on the lookout for this young man in the near future.

 You can see him and his Arsenal squad take on Sunderland this weekend in the Barclays Premier League. It should be a great fixture after Arsenal’s emphatic 7-1 victory over Blackburn last weekend and Sunderland’s impressive form since Martin O’Neill took over as the Black Cats’ boss in December.