From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.35 :: NO.07 :: Feb. 16, 2012
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain arrived at Arsenal with a reputation as one of the brightest prospects in English football and the forward is starting to show precisely why he is so highly regarded.
The 18-year-old, who can operate as a winger or in a more advanced role, joined the Gunners in a GBP12 million deal from Southampton last summer and was seen as one for the future by manager Arsene Wenger.
But Oxlade-Chamberlain proved he is more than ready to feature in the London club's first team when he scored on his UEFA Champions League debut against Olympiakos in September.
Wenger then handed the former Saints man his English Premier League debut against Manchester United last month and the teenager was arguably Arsenal's best player.
When Oxlade-Chamberlain was substituted in the second half there was a chorus of boos from the Arsenal fans, as he had been their most potent attacking threat.
And Wenger sees no reason why, with more games under his belt, the powerful starlet should not follow team-mate Theo Walcott into contention for Fabio Capello's England squad for this summer's European Championship in Poland and Ukraine.
“You cannot rule it out and it is not because you are young that you cannot play. We will see in the next three months and if he does well, why not?” said Wenger.
“We live in a world of immediacy. I would not have expected him to be so mature in September because he still looked like a boy. Now suddenly he looks like he can take pressure and that he has the personality to produce under pressure.
“But he has only really played one game at the top, so let's see how well he does.”
Wenger believes Oxlade-Chamberlain's decision to move to the Emirates Stadium has been vindicated given that he has already broken into the first team.
“They get a chance here that is for sure,” the Frenchman said. “Young players want to join us because they know they will get a chance at the top level. I believe for an English national team player, you have to start to play at 18 at the top level if you want to become an international player. They all played at 18 — John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard.”
Wenger continued: “I believe that when Oxlade-Chamberlain was making his choices, he knew that he would have a chance here. I think we have always shown we are willing to take out experienced players and put younger ones in when they deserve it.”
Eyebrows were raised in some quarters when the Gunners paid such a big fee for Oxlade-Chamberlain, but he is already starting to look like a bargain.
Walcott was a surprise inclusion in the England squad for the 2006 World Cup in Germany aged just 17, but it would not be such a shock to see Oxlade-Chamberlain board the plane to Euro 2012.
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