Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain finally made a welcome return to full training earlier today, five weeks after his last first-team appearance.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has been sidelined for over a month by a recurring groin problem, which flared up again in the breakthrough 2-0 win over Manchester City at the Etihad on January 18th.
The 21-year-old had featured in all but one of Arsenal's Premier League games until picking up that fresh injury problem, but is now facing an uphill battle to regain that starting spot when he's finally back to full fitness.
Return of the Ox
Wenger confirmed the news that Oxlade-Chamberlain is back with the first-team squad in his pre-match press conference for tomorrow night's Champions League showdown with Monaco, but after the England international was snapped in the open part of Arsenal's training session earlier that day he hardly needed to.
Monaco will come too soon for the 21-year-old, but Sunday's Premier League showdown with Everton or more excitingly the FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United on March 9th look far realistic propositions for a return to action.
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Will he win place back?
Arsenal definitely have a very exciting player on their hands in Oxlade-Chamberlain, but he's getting dangerously close to losing the tag of prospect and competition for a starting spot at the Emirates is fierce.
With a unique mix of pace, raw power and technical ability in possession, the Southampton academy standout is capable of playing both out wide and in an advanced central-midfield position.
His problem though is that both positions look fully stocked, particularly that preferred wide berth on the right-hand side. Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck bring different qualities to the role, but both score more regularly than Oxlade-Chamberlain at this stage of his career and have the engine to track back too.
Move inside and its a similar story, with Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla both supremely gifted players who bar an alarming dip in form will always get the nod to pull the strings in advanced central areas.
On the left there's the outrageously talented Alexis Sanchez, who doesn't really buy into being rested full stop let alone give another player the chance to shine in his position.
Time to step things up
There's no question that Wenger will continue to give Oxlade-Chamberlain first-team opportunities when possible, particularly as Arsenal are still fighting on three fronts heading into the business end of the campaign.
Wenger can only do so much though, its time for one of English football's most gifted to produce performances consistently or make a strong impact from the bench when called upon in big matches.
Before getting injured Oxlade-Chamberlain started 13 out of 15 Premier League games for the Gunners , so the potential is definitely there.
Walcott's return from injury has moved the goalposts though, the margin for error is slim and Arsenal need to start seeing a bit more from Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and in truth Aaron Ramsey to justify their prized positions in Wenger's squad.
Arsenal fans, do you think Oxlade-Chamberlain is good enough to earn a regular starting spot when everyone is fit? Does he need to do more? Have your say in the comment box below
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