Every week at The Center Circle, we are highlighting a different player in a feature we call “On the Spot”. We’ll take a look at superstars, underrated gems, aging veterans, and young unknowns who should be known. We’ll peruse their club and international careers, taking note of their teams, statistics, and highlight reels. We’ll illuminate their strengths and weaknesses and comment on their personalities and reputations. It will be some fun. If there is anyone you want to see “On the Spot”, feel free to comment below.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has quickly grown into one of the brightest young talents that England has to offer. The 22-year-old has already established himself as a regular for Roy Hodgson’s England squad, and his role at Arsenal continues to grow every week. How far can the Ox go?
Oxlade-Chamberlain was born on the southern coast of England in Portsmouth. At just seven years old, the young player joined Southampton’s storied youth academy where his father, Mark Chamberlain, was also coaching. For the next ten years, the future England star would ply his trade for Southampton’s various youth squads before finally receiving a call-up to the senior squad.
Aged just 16 the midfielder made his professional debut for Southampton in a League One (third tier of English competition) match against Huddersfield. Even though he only played five minutes in the 5-0 victory, the brief cameo made the 16-year-old Southampton’s second youngest debutant only behind a future Arsenal teammate in Theo Walcott. The 2009/10 season came and went with the bright prospect appearing just twice for a combined total of 13 minutes.
The following year, the Ox continued to grow into new manager Dean Wilkins’ first team plans. During an early round fixture against AFC Bournemouth in the Carling Cup, the 17-year-old made his first competitive start and went on to score his first goal for the club in a 2-0 victory. After spending the early part of the 2010/11 campaign as a substitute, the young midfielder started to become an integral part of the starting 11 and would go onto make 25 starts between all competitions.
His first full professional season also came with an astounding eight goals and another eight assists. These impressive statistics paired with the teenager’s exciting style of play earned him the honor of being named in that season’s PFA League One Team of the Year. After this impressive showing at such a young age, rumors of interest from Premier League giants began to swirl, and it seemed like the Ox’s time on the southern coast would be coming to an end sooner rather than later.
A Young Gunner
Even though Oxlade-Chamberlain had only played one full season at the professional level, Arsene Wenger and Arsenal decided to pull the trigger and bring the talented teenager to the Emirates. Southampton collected a hefty £12-15 million transfer fee for their academy product. Despite the big price tag, Oxlade-Chamberlain wasn’t immediately thrown into first team action with Wenger easing his new talent into the club.
The Ox’s debut for his new club came as a sub during a momentous 8-2 victory over bitter rivals Manchester United. A month later, the 18-year-old made his first start for the Gunners against Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup, and just like at Southampton, he would go on to score. Eager to impress his new fans, Oxlade-Chamberlain would go on to score a vital goal in his Champions League debut against Olympiakos to spark a 2-1 victory. A lone two-goal performance against Blackburn in February, however, would be the only time the teenager would find the back of the net in league play that season. In total, Ox made 26 competitive appearances during his debut season at the historic club.
After a busy summer with England in the European Championships, Oxlade-Chamberlain came back to the Emirates with much needed experience and he looked set for an increased role in team. The 2012/13 season came and went with the 19-year-old starting 17 matches between all competitions, while tacking on another 14 substitute appearances in the league. The increase in playing time didn’t come with an increase in goals, however, as he scored just once in the league while adding three assists along the way.
His third season in London got off to a hot start when he assisted Olivier Giroud on the opening day of the 2013/14 season, but an injury forced the midfielder to spend essentially the first half of the season watching from the sidelines. The long stint away from the pitch limited the 20-year-old to just 14 league appearances, but he was still able to find the back of the net twice in the league. 2014 also brought the Ox his first major piece of silverware as Arsenal claimed that year’s FA Cup.
Last year was Oxlade-Chamberlain’s most productive season to date. It started out with a trophy as the Gunner’s toppled Manchester City 3-0 in the Community Shield. A little more than a month later, the midfielder scored perhaps his most important goal for the club with a late equalizer against Tottenham in the North London Derby. 2014/15 saw the Portsmouth native start 17 times for the Gunners. The momentous year also came to an end with an FA Cup repeat as the Ox managed to get an assist in a 4-0 demolition against Aston Villa in the final.
After appearing for the U-18, U-19 and U-21 England international squads, Oxlade-Chamberlain earned himself a spot in the senior side for Euro 2012. The Arsenal midfielder made his full international debut during a friendly against Norway in May 2012. During the Euros, the Ox started in England’s first game against France, but was relegated to a substitute role for the team’s final three matches.
Later that year, Oxlade-Chamberlain would go on to score his first goal for England in an 8-0 thrashing of San Marino during World Cup qualifying. Despite his good form with Arsenal in the league leading up the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Ox would fail to make an appearance during the tournament as he watched every match from the sidelines.
Style of Play
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain earned the nickname “The Ox” not just because of his last name, but also because of the brute strength that he has on the ball. In his typical wide position on the pitch, this strength allows the Arsenal midfielder to protect the ball against opposing fullbacks, while also giving him the ability to body past his defender to create chances. In addition to his strength, the Ox possesses rapid pace, which makes him a constant threat on the wings. As he’s grown into the Arsenal team, we’ve seen an increased confidence from the 22-year-old. He’s not afraid to make decisive passes or take on his defender. Only time will tell how good the Ox can become, but right now it seems like the sky is the limit.
Off the Pitch
Oxlade-Chamberlain has quickly become a fan favorite at the Emirates through his heavy involvement with the club’s various social media accounts. In particular, he is a constant presence on Arsenal’s YouTube account as he gives his opinions on various social events and his teammates. The videos show fans that their talented midfielder is still just a regular guy, and it hard for anybody not to root for him.