The last few days have seen Arsenal fans rejoice following the stunning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain winner versus Chelsea.
It has also seen Gunners fans grimace with disappointment in hearing about Jack Wilshere’s latest injury setback. Such occurrences epitomise the best and the worst of Arsenal’s English core.
Theo Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Wilshere are the trio that form Arsenal’s strong English contingent. Despite many people’s contradicting opinions, it is clear these three have potential, and lots of it.
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In the 2013/14 season one might remember Walcott’s prolific run of goals that included a hat-trick against Newcastle United. At that time, we saw someone oozing with energy and enthusiasm, something Arsenal have sorely lacked up front.
Then there’s Oxlade Chamberlain who, albeit in sporadic appearances, has managed to impress. His powerful play and technical ability could be likened to the Wayne Rooney of Euro 2004. The Ox has proven himself as a excellent box-to-box midfielder and perhaps an even better winger.
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The last of the trio is Wilshere. Wilshere’s attitude has been heavily scrutinised but there is no doubting this 23-year-old’s ability.
The Englishman possesses a wonderful change of pace and his low centre of gravity, coupled with close control, allows him to wriggle free of defenders with ease. With his once boyish, slender frame, Wilshere managed to boss a Barcelona midfield equipped with Xavi and Andres Iniesta in their primes. Excellent performances against Bayern Munich soon followed as well.
While there is no doubting the talent of these elite Englishman, various factors have held them back. Last season, Walcott was out injured for the vast majority of games thanks to a serious injury sustained the year before.
Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain experienced recurring niggling injuries that have constantly disrupted their development.
These players have continued to battle injury problems throughout the entirety of their careers. For Walcott, this season must be his best. At 26-years-old the ex-Saints star is by no means old, but is not getting any younger either.
He should be entering his prime now, but injury has taken away a significant portion of his developmental period.
Wilshere and The Ox
The other two are still in their early twenties, but they need to start coming into their own as established first-team players. Wilshere has effectively wasted two seasons on the treatment table and there has been virtually no progress from him as a result.
If this continues, a once promising and fruitful career might become fruitless. Oxlade-Chamberlain meanwhile has battled with injuries to a lesser extent, but his difficulty in getting back to full match sharpness has seen him left on the bench for long stretches.
As Arsenal look to become regular title challengers, plenty of new signings will begin to come in. Wilshere, Walcott, and Chamberlain will not only have to deal with their own demons, but competition from the other players in the squad.
Wenger has vehemently supported his English core through it all. But if their careers continue to be riddled with spells on the sidelines, it is only a matter of time before Wenger is forced to change his mind.
Arsenal fans, do you think this season is crunch time for Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere? Let us know in the comments box below.