A case of the Ox


The future looks very bright for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Arsenal, impressing at every available opportunity thus far with goals in the Champions League and League Cup.

Less than a month ago, manager Arsene Wenger even hinted that the summer signing from Southampton was capable of breaking into the England squad for Euro 2012, as well as standing on the cusp of a regular run in the Gunners' line-up.

However, the breaks appear to have been cautiously applied to the teenager who, for his own part, is happy to play the squad game as he learns his trade at the Emirate Stadium.

"I can’t say when I will play, I don’t know, that’s for the boss to say really. I’m just available if ever needed," he told the official website.

"If I am required then I’m ready. I’m looking forward to getting an opportunity and I will try and take my chance. You’re playing for Arsenal, you have to be on top of your game at all times if possible."

To the surprise of many in north London, that chance didn't come against Aston Villa last night, with Wenger resisting the temptation to turn to his talented 18-year-old.

With the Gunners needing a goal in the Midlands, the Frenchman instead turned to veteran playmaker Yossi Benayoun, and the Israeli didn't let his manager down with a late winner for the visitors.

For all his promise in the cup and Europe, his only appearance at the domestic top table came as a substitute in the 8-2 loss to Manchester United in August.

The fact he hasn't already been called upon suggests one of two things, either Wenger doesn't think the player is ready to step-up just yet or he's being held back for a specific reason.

Whilst it's understandable that he isn't starting for the north London outfit, it is a surprise that Oxlade-Chamberlain hasn't been given more minutes on the pitch ahead of a notoriously tricky festive period.

Should the youngster be called upon, as expected, he has little to call upon with regards to experience at the highest level, with the pace of a game in the Barclays Premier League far different to that of an Npower League One match.

That makes 'the Ox' a gamble, although it's one the fans are desperate to see after making an impressive first impression. His form for England U21s since his move to the capital has also been exemplary.

So when can fans realistically expect to see the player in senior league action?

The next two fixtures seems as likely a time as ever. With Wolves and QPR at home in back-to-back fixtures on the 27th and 31st respectively.

Whilst no game is easy at the top level, and both sides are battling for points in the fight to avoid the drop, the next home clash in the league would be against Manchester United on January 22nd.

It strikes as a case of 'now or never' for the player in terms of this season, although when you bare in mind the player's age, he still has well over a decade to make an impact for the club.

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