In that week where Wenger revealed that Thierry Henry’s loan will come to an end on February 16 2012, a time for mass reminiscence and recognition took place as the French striker’s Arsenal career drew to a fairy tale end. 228 goals in 377 appearances tells its own story.
The word legend that is perhaps overused in modern day society is deserved when speaking of Henry. A player with such grace yet demolition and finesse yet power, he really did have absolutely everything.
Brushing my tears aside, my thoughts turn to a certain Southampton-born winger who signed for £12m. Enter, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. In an effort to not pile on the pressure, putting him side by side with Thierry Henry, he still he is still only 21-years-old.
But talk about making an impression. His performance in the 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United in January 2012 brought about so much praise from Arsenal fans that when Wenger bizarrely substituted the Ox on 74 minutes, Gooners all around the stadium started jeering Arsene Wenger.
Remember, this man is the most decorated Arsenal manager in history whom often sees his, “in Arsene we trust,” banner flying from all corners of the Emirates. It was quite something.
Speed and Confidence
Everyone knows of his frightening pace, but that isn't his only attribute. What has struck me about Chamberlain is how good his awareness is. None of the runs he makes are down “cul-de-sacs” Lee Dixon likes to say.
His alluring confidence is something to be admired to. I don’t mean the type of confidence Nikolas Bendtner has in trying to use your voice box, I mean the type of confidence to try and beat a player; the type of confidence to have a shot from distance.
Unlike Bendtner, The Ox unleashes his confidence on the football pitch and not into a microphone. (Why the big Norwegian said, “I’m the best striker in the Premier league” is understandable really… No one else is going to say that to him are they?)
I loved his first goal against Blackburn in the 7-1 mauling Arsenal gave them two seasons ago, Latching onto a pinpoint Van Persie pass to round Paul Robinson to then finish coolly into an empty net.
That was his best game so far for Arsenal in my opinion. All of his attributes came to the surface; the intelligence to be able to choose the right pass, the ability to beat players with consummate ease and his exquisite movement off the ball were there for the world to see.
The problem with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is finding a weakness in him. Maybe he won’t ever be an aerial threat, but his dribbling, shooting, passing, and running ability surely makes up for it.
It was massively disappointing for Hodgson and English football that Oxlade-Chamberlain didn't get a chance to showcase his talents at the World Cup in Brazil. I'm convinced his dynamism would have changed both games against Italy and Uruguay where England were looking to come from behind.
He'll have steep competition for a place in Wenger's starting 11 this season with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott's improving fitness, but he will undoubtedly be a very important player for Arsenal this season, as he always seems to be.
Wenger has said before that he sees Oxlade-Chamberlain as more of a deep lying midfielder who likes to build up play, whereas Walcott and Sanchez are portrayed to be better playing on the shoulder of the last defender or out wide. Bearing this in mind, we could see the Ox play more centrally this season than ever before in an Arsenal shirt.