The Arsenal dilemma | Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain v Theo Walcott

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It's easy to draw comparisons between Arsenal's latest young prodigy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott before him, so similar are the paths their respective careers have taken them.

Both players joined the Gunners from Southampton, as talented teenagers in multi-million-pound deals, and having successfully progressed through the Saints' esteemed youth academy, the duo arrived in north London, seemingly with the footballing world at their feet.

Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott are equally comfortable playing on either wing, and both possesses an abundance of electrifying pace. But that is where the comparisons end - and continuing to make them is a dangerous trap to fall into.

"People are going to immediately compare me to Theo," the £12million summer signing explained. "We came to Arsenal at a similar age, in similar positions, so it is an easy comparison to make.

"We are completely different players though. Theo is more of a winger or a striker, whereas I have always grown up as an attacking midfielder, who has later gone out wide.

"There are a lot of differences but at the same time Theo is a great player so for me to be compared to him is good."

Oxlade-Chamberlain's progress has been relatively rapid and his impact instantaneous, culminating in a smoother transition to life at the Emirates. In just nine first-team appearances for Arsene Wenger's side, the 18-year-old's delivery from the wing already suggests that he has the potential to develop a greater consistency than Walcott.

But, it's easy to forget that Walcott himself is only 22, and having already made over 200 appearances in almost six years at Arsenal, the forward must be given some credit.

This is a man who has already scored a hat-trick for England, away in Croatia, and remains the youngest player to achieve that feat for the Three Lions. This is a man who helped to transform a UEFA Champions League match against Barcelona. And this is the man that once again showed glimpses of his potential when he played with brilliant dynamism to help Arsenal to an emphatic 5-3 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this season.

The problem with Walcott is his infuriating inconsistency, and obvious lack of end product. This season his crossing has improved markedly, but too frequently it wavers between the silly, and the sublime.

His finishing is hardly something to fill Arsenal fans with confidence either. Five goals in 28 games this season, compared to 13 in 38 last campaign, backs up suggestions that his ability to convert chances into goals is getting worse - evidence that hardly makes him a leading candidate for a more central attacking role, as has been previously discussed.

"Walcott is a bit more a striker and Oxlade-Chamberlain is more a midfielder," commented Wenger, when he was asked about the comparisons between the two. "They are quite similar types of players.

"He [Oxlade-Chamberlain] likes more to be in the build-up of things and Walcott is more a guy who makes intelligent runs. So they are not that similar as players but they have some similarities physically already. They look the same size, the same type of player.

"But I believe that Oxlade-Chamberlain could be a central midfielder one day and Walcott a central striker one day. That shows the difference between them."

Another comparison has seen Walcott likened to the man that wore the number 14 shirt at Arsenal before him, Thierry Henry. Both share remarkable powers of acceleration, the ability to dribble past defenders and the tendency to drift in from the wing to attack the opposition goal.

But where Henry excelled, Walcott has frustrated - his lack of footballing awareness is ultimately what lets him down, reflected by his continuously poor decision-making under pressure.

If there is one thing that Wenger must do before Henry returns to the MLS with New York Red Bulls, it's to ensure that both Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain spend as much time on the training ground with the Arsenal legend as they possibly can. For any knowledge that Henry can pass on to the club's next generation of stars, will surely be worth its weight in gold.

"Being able to train with these players every day, listening to the manager and just being around Arsenal Football Club, I have learned so much since I have come here," Oxlade-Chamberlain added.

"When I came here, I did not think I was going to jump into the squad straight away. I would have been naive to think that. All I can do is try my best to impress when I have got my chance, I just have to keep working hard and improving."

Never was there clearer evidence of that hard work than during last weekend's 2-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester United. Making his first Barclays Premier League start, the youngster offered an exciting glimpse of what is to come, for Arsenal and for England.

Where Walcott went missing, Oxlade-Chamberlain rose to the challenge, and in only a handful of appearances so far this season, it already appears clear that he will evolve into not only a different player to the England winger, but fundamentally a better one.

Premier League
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Theo Walcott

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