Oxlade-Chamberlain the new Gazza says Arsenal Legend

After his powerful introduction 19 years after his father against Brazil in the Estadio Maracana, Arsenal’s very own Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is grabbing the headlines this week. It was not quite a John Barnes worldie but Ox’s involvement in the build up and clinical finish for England’s first goal has drawn other comparisons. On breakfast radio the morning after our very own Real Romford Pele, Ray Parlour likened Alex’s style and potential to that of one of England’s finest ever midfielders, Paul Gasciogne.

Gooner Legend compares Ox to an England legend
Gooner Legend compares Ox to an England legend

Is this an outrageous statement? On the face of it perhaps it is because many of us will remember Gascoigne bursting on the England scene as a youngster under Booby Robson pre Italia 90. We recall him dazzling on that stage before being booked in the World Cup Semi and being unable to control his tears. Gooners of my age will try and forget the awful day at Wembley in 1991 when his individual brilliance robbed us of a League and FA Cup Double. Would any of us instantly think of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain now and picture him at the level Paul Gasgoigne was at in 1990?

Would it be foolhardy to suggest that Ox rather the Wilshere is the heir apparent to the throne of English playmaker, which despite the so called Golden Generation has not been filled since the 1990s.Yes we have has Scholes, Ince, Gerrard and Lampard, but only Joe Cole was ever spoken about as a successor to Gasgoigne? Why? Were these guys not top players? Are they still not top players? In truth yes they have all been great players but only Cole was a dribbler who could run at the opposition with the ball at his feet and to take the battle to the other team through the middle park. So where did successive England managers play Joe Cole? Out wide of course. No England manager since Robson has had the balls to pick the type of player Gascoigne was or Cole could have been and play him in the advanced midfield role, in a 2 or a 3.

Ever since I heard Parlour make the comparison between Ox and Gazza it is all I can think about both for Arsenal and for England.  I met Alex when he was an U15 school boy with the Saints. He used to sit waiting for his dad who was coaching my son at Pompey at Under 14s. Do you know the first thing that hit me back then? He was fully developed at 15. He was already in a man’s body. Now at 19 he has the body of a muscular sprinter, with the low centre of gravity and the close control that often comes with it. People forget Gazza was only 1.75m in height (5ft9”) and it seemed to enable him to glide past people with the ball at his feet but his upper body strength was utilised simultaneously to shoulder defenders away. They seemed to bounce off him and I see this in Jack Wilshere but particularly in Ox who is 5cm taller than Gascoigne but is even more physical and much faster over the ground.

The sky is the limit
The sky is the limit

Those who have read me or talked to me over the past year or so will know I have championed Alex. In his first season perhaps I did this too much. I recall saying we had no need to sign Gotze because we had Oxlade-Chamberlain. I wrote a blog before the last game of 2011/12 versus WBA with the slogan within “The Ox must play!”

There have been times this season when I thought he was not progressing and other times when I have wondered why Wenger was not utilising more often? I want him to play through the middle but that area is hugely congested for the Arsenal at present. So much so, that even Jack Wishere has not been guaranteed a start. Now I love Cazorla in the advanced central role and equally I enjoy seeing Rosicky there. Both bring differing attributes to the job but Wenger seems to see Santi wider and Tomas is no spring chicken. For me Jack and Rambo are competing for the second pivot so Ox is the heir successor to the CAM role. I said at the start of the season that we have not replaced the Cesc like vision and eye for a pass to split defences in that role so having a runner/dribbler who can carry the ball and commit defenders is the best alternative. (This is of course assuming Fabregas is not returning to take the CAM role. The odds on that happening are tumbling at Bet365 Football Betting.)

Where am I going you may be wondering and I have just had to remind myself as it goes!

I will tell you where I am headed and it is all around age and expectancy in modern football and how it was so different in Gazza’s day. More pertinently though I think the question is whether it was better back then? Both Gascoigne and Ox made their first starts in the top flight aged 18. Gazza with Newcastle in 1985, and Oxlade-Chamberlain with Arsenal in 2011. In this respect therefore the early career paths are similar but there is a huge difference when you look at the International careers.

Looking back we think Of Gascoigne bursting onto the scene as a kid in the 1990 World Cup. The reality is very different. Gazza won the Young Player of the Year Award in 1987/88 but he had not played for England and was still playing U21 football. He has to wait until; he was 21 and 6 months until he made his debut and it was not until he was in his 23rd year that he was playing regularly for England. Going to the World Cup in the summer of 1990 at the age of 23 Gascoigne has just hit double figures for his country. He was mature enough in a football sense to take a  match by the scruff of the neck on a consistent basis, but only just.

Contrast this with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who after only 8 U21 caps was give his full England Debut still aged 18 in a competitive qualifier. He had played 2 further times, the 3rd cap starting the European Championships against France still 2 months short of his 19th birthday. Only Rooney has been capped by England at a younger age. Ox now has 12 full caps and is still 19 and is being compared to Gazza by Ray Parlour.

I can see the likeness and I too feel my pulse racing at the idea that Alex could reach the level, in a footballing sense that Gasciogne did. But and this is a huge but, we as fans, the media and the England coaching staff need to look to Arsene Wenger who I feel has mentored Ox sensibly. Wenger is being cautious, utilising Ox sparingly, often as a game changer and to his credit the lad seems to show huge maturity and be happy to progress at the pace his manager decides. Wenger can’t truly control what Roy Hodgson decides but he can determine Ox’s learning curve and impact at Arsenal.

I guess the comparisons made caused me to look back at Gazza and to remember that in 1990 he was not a true youngster but a 23 year old who has played 5 seasons of top flight and had in that time has played 158, yes 158 times for Newcastle and Spurs. When Ox was taken to his first major championships in the summer of 2012 had had played in just 26 top flight games for Arsenal and now with a huge 69 games for Arsenal, the majority as a substitute he is suddenly England’s main hope?

In truth Alex should be with Stuart Peace’s U21s this week but he is not. (Follow the Euro Live Football online) In England 2013 it is, and has been for some years all about the NOW. As I say we cannot control whether our players are selected for England too early and how much expectation is thrust upon them. We can however remember that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is not yet 20 years old and that Paul Gasciogne did not become the player we all remember from Italia 90- and the FA Cup run of 1991 until he was 23/24. The expectations and perceptions in the Premier League era many have changed. The pressure on successive England Coaches as time elapses since 1966 augments but the reality  that a player, in most cases will not peak until 23/24 or beyond has not.

Ox celebrates after England strike v Brazil
Ox celebrates after England strike v Brazil

We as Arsenal fans should appreciate the comparison with Gascoigne and lick our lips with anticipation of what Ox could become for Arsenal and for his country. However we should be patient and allow Wenger to mould him and introduce him increasingly so when he is 23 he too can impact matches, cup runs and campaigns in the way Gazza did at that age.

I genuinely believe we have an absolute gem on our hands who will have an impact on the game at the highest level. I thought this when he was 15 and I still feel the same way. I just hope the lad himself recognises that his great future is still in the future and not necessarily now. Look at Theo as your inspiration young Ox.

In the season when he turned 20, which for Ox is the forthcoming one, Walcott only played in 30 of Arsenal’s 55 matches and started only 15.  In that 2009/10 season Theo scored 4 and assisted. Just three years later, in the season just gone, aged 23 he scored 21 and assisted for 14.

Ox you have the perfect role model in patience in Theo
Ox you have the perfect role model in patience in Theo

It is all there for you Ox. You could be the first England midfielder in the Gazza mould to truly make a breakthrough and be given licence to play that role. Be patient though as we the fans must be because your time to really shine is surely in 2 to 3 years.

Like what you read? Agree/disagree? Leave a comment below or follow me or comment on this blog on Twitter – http://twitter.com/goonerdave66

 

 

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24 comments

  1. Another good read Dave, I think we need to be patient as you righly refer to other players who became great in their early 20’s

  2. Excellent post. In a time when all the arsenal related news is BS transfer stories cooked up by goal.com and caughtoffside, it’s really refreshing to read something like this. Bravo.

  3. I really appreciate ur write up Bravo,ox future is bright indeed,let him keep his hesd down not to be carried away by fame,and also pay attaintion to arsene wenger with that sky will surely be his limit.

  4. Loved your piece on the you know who,but can we keep it under our hat ,too many sniffing poachers around. HeHe!!!

  5. another superb article from Dave.. Ox should definitely wait and grab the opportunity when given by Arsene to mark his presence felt in the first XI just like Ramsey did in the latter part of the 2012-13 season. Like you, I believe that AOC is the quality player that AFC and England will cherish about in the future seasons..

  6. I have maintained and still do that all the British press who deride Wenger will be kissing his boots come 2016 when England finally has a team that can compete technically with the best European teams. Ox, Wilshere, Theo, Gibbs, Jenkinson will all be in the starting 11.

  7. I think that if positioned behind the striker, Ox can become for us what Bale has become for Tottenham. In time, of cause. I can’t really see him as a “playmaker”, but hopefully Wilshere can provide the scheming side of things.
    It’s hard to see Wilshere as an advanced midfielder at the moment. He just doesn’t have the goalscoring ability, and his inability to use his right foot effectively means that he can’t always execute some passes that he perhaps should. Cazorla and Fabregas are both built in a similar physical mould to Wilshere, but their skill set makes them far more effective in that role. Wilshere will probably develop some of those skills in the future, but at least for the moment he is better operating a little deeper.

    I can certainly imagine the Arsenal team in a couple of years built around these two guys – Ox busting past players and scoring 15 goals a season from midfield, and Wilshere orchestrating things from a little deeper. All we need is a physical presence to complete the midfield – Capoue? Fellaini?

  8. Last summer in pre-season I was excited for AOC to push on the following season & obviously was disapointed in how his season went. This summer I’m still excited for him & that was even before his goal vs Brazil. It will be interesting to see how he’s handled & whether AW will utilize him more as a CAM. If anything I’m hoping AW rotates him in the position. Hopefully we will be having a relatively good season so that we may be able to be a bit more flexible than last season

  9. Another great topic, I have been a massive fan of the OX for quite some time as well. I agree that he should be, in time, placed in the CAM position with Wilshere and a strong midfielder controlling the pace.

    Currently I see Cazorla filling that CAM role better with the option to swing out wide or interchange to mix-up attacking flow and confuse defenses. Oxlade is still very young, but showing amazing progress, so he should slot in soon. But a wise player is a student of the game, so hopefully he is learning.

    The future looks bright so long as we reinforce the defense for some depth (in case of injury, cup exhaustion, etc) and bring in a strong CDM like Fellaini or a like player.

    Thoughts?

    1. I am not convinced in Fellaini as he very rarely plays DM – Only v us at Emirates. I like Morgan Schneirderlin as a specialist DM

      I also think if we go for Cesc which we are it is unlikley

  10. i know that wenger, chambo’s dad and lots of other ppl think CAM is ultimately the position for the ox, but personally i can’t think of him as anything other than a CM, perhaps a very attacking one, but nonetheless a CM. in modern day football players like him has played best as CMs in 4-3-3, like iniesta. in fact wilshire himself fits this mould more than that of a playmaking CAM. so could it be that abandoning 4-2-3-1 and double pivot, instead play 4-3-3 with two CMs and a dedicated holding midfielder would suit arsenal more?

      1. well 4-3-3 is different in the positioning of wide players, they are wide forwards(eg podolski) rather than wide attacking midfielders(eg mata) of 4-2-3-1 or wingers of 4-4-2/4-1-3-1-1(eg beckham). that means the role of CMs are also different. 4-3-3 accomodates two creative centre midfielders(xavi-iniesta) but their game is significantly different to that of a traditional playmaker playing in the hole(fabregas), which is why fabregas is only a shadow of himself in berca, having to play out of position. traditional playmakers/CAMs are all about hovering in the space between opponent’s defense and midfield, receive and pass and create from there. whereas the CMs in 4-3-3 have to drop down and bring up the ball from the midfield, and that’s where the natural directness of oxlade-chamberlein and wilshere on the ball can be put to use. i just can’t envisage them giving up on their running and dribbling and start playing the passing game of zidane or riquelme, or the clever game of positioning of ozil or croose. their natural game is to run up and down like proper CMs, and the only formation that i know of, which accomodates two CMs is 4-3-3(apart from 3-5-2, but that’s not likely is it?).

        so why not have two ‘new gazzas’ play side by side in the centre of the park?

      2. Thanks mate. You have educated me and I am grateful. Good mileage in 433 for us then perhaps.

        2 Questions – 1) Are you on twitter and 2) Have you considered writing blogs?

        Dave

  11. Interesting piece.

    AOC, seems to me, to be quite an intelligent, well grounded young man. He was an extreamly sort after comodity and had the choice of going to any of the PL’s top teams. It’s not by accident he choose our club, he and his people knew that a manager with Wenger’s record would nurture and develop his talent in a responsible manner. He has shown that he is willing to bide his time and grabs the opportunities as they come along, a very comendable trait and one sadly lacking in too many players today.

    I expect great things from him in the future.

  12. thanks a lot for your very kind words, dave. b

    as for twitter, no i don’t have an account. and i have not dared try blogging with my not-so-good English…but be sure that you’ll see me a lot in the comments section here, after all this is the best arsenal blog there is and i ain’t gonna miss it.

    1. You should write something and send it to me. I can edit is English not perfect, Where are you from?

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