Arsenal starlet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has said he would like to be involved in Euro 2012 but will not get carried away – one of the reasons he must be picked.
The 18-year-old burst into the Premier League consciousness this season with a number of outstanding performances in the latter half of the season.
As is the English public’s want in a season before a major tournament, people were crying out for the former Southampton trainee to be taken with the senior squad to Poland and Ukraine.
This view seemed premature at the time with him making just a handful of performances for the Gunners first team, though he was mightily impressive whenever he did play.
Time has passed now and it is a little easier to take stock of what he has achieved and how far he has come since he set Emirates Stadium alight for the first time.
He had a run of games in February where he was in the starting line up, but the return of Gervinho from the Africa Cup of Nations and the deployment of Aaron Ramsey in wide positions when playing away have meant his involvement has been rotated a lot more.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has always admitted that he is not comfortable with the hype that surrounds young players in this country and regularly warns against hoping for too much too soon.
This might be down to why ‘The Ox’ has been used more sparingly in the last few fixtures, despite him being one of Arsenal’s more impressive players over the last two months.
Wenger has probably found the best formula for how Oxlade-Chamberlain should be treated for the foreseeable future and that is why the young midfielder should be going to Euro 2012.
While nobody expects him to be a world-beater straight away (nobody sane anyway) the fact that Wenger feels confident enough to involve him in most of the team’s fixtures – substitute or starter – shows the burgeoning trust the Frenchman has for him.
Arsenal’s inspiring, though unsuccessful, attempt to overturn a 4-0 deficit against AC Milan was notable for the influence the talented young man was able to exert on the game, and to do so while facing some of the best players in Europe.
His performance against Milan was even more encouraging due to it being his first time playing in the centre of the Arsenal midfield, usually playing out on the flanks.
There is no suggestion that Oxlade-Chamberlain should go to the tournament with a major role in the England team, but his attributes mean he could be a valuable addition to the squad in general.
It would not be comparable to Sven Goran Eriksson taking Theo Walcott to the 2006 World Cup in Germany, with the now senior England international never having made a Premier League appearance.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is nearly two years older than Walcott the latter was a surprise selection the squad, though unused at the tournament, he his also a different kind of player and looks more comfortable with his surroundings than his team-mate did.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s adaptability in his positioning provides whoever England’s manager may be to be more flexible when using him and he has shown a level-headedness when coming onto the big stage without much experience.
He is unlikely to be affected adversely by going into such a high pressure situation – his debut and full debut were both against Manchester United in the Premier League and add to this his central midfield debut against AC Milan.
The extensive coverage of football is at unprecedented levels these days and it is difficult to spring any surprises at major tournaments anymore, so the Arsenal man would go with at least an element of mystery – hardly any players at the tournament would have played against him.
The arguments for protecting a blossoming talent can at times be convincing, but the benefits now outweigh the negatives when weighing up the young man’s involvement at international level.
We’ve seen he has the quality, we’ve seen he has the mentality for the big stage, we most certainly know he is effective enough – Mr England manager? The Ox must go.
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