Wenger: Ox belongs on big stage

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Football News

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has made a big impact for Arsenal since signing from Southampton last summer, and Arsene Wenger feels he has particularly impressed in some of the Gunners' most high-profile games.

The 18-year-old midfielder has made a seamless transition to life in the Premier League, and looks to relish the biggest occasions, but his workload will still be monitored closely as the manager remains cautious about thrusting him into the spotlight.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has great physical attributes that have helped him make his mark in the first-team, but Wenger also reserved praise for the England U21 international's mental strength, resulting in him not being fazed by the big games.

"To put him in the team against any opposition - it is just natural for him to be there," the Frenchman told the club's official website. "For a young player, sometimes they waste a lot of time getting used to the pressure.

"He is a little bit like a boxer in his upper body. He has not played too many games up until now because he was on a learning curve but he has a super quality and is not fazed by the occasion.

"He looks like he can take it. There are very few players like that, players who look like they have always played in the team."

Despite his impressive start to life in north London, Oxlade-Chamberlain has been restricted to substitute appearances for Arsenal in the past few games - a tactic Wenger will continue to deploy in a bid not to burden a number of his promising young stars at the Emirates Stadium.

"Physically we have to monitor him because after every game he can have a little problem," he added. "We know now that a large percentage of players who play a lot of games between the ages of 18 and 21 have bony stress responses. I never expected the number to be so high.

"[It happens] because your skeleton is not completely finished and the bones are not completely developed to absorb the kinds of shocks you get in the Premier League.

"We have to be cautious about that. But you are always in a trap when the player is as good as he is, like Jack Wilshere is too.

"You cannot take him out of the team, you have to keep him there. They can win you games. Until the end of the season there is no problem and if he continues to play like this I am convinced he will go to Euro 2012."

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

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