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Since joining Arsenal in August 2011 at the age of just 17, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been regularly in and out of the Arsenal starting eleven without truly making any position his own.
At the beginning of each season pundits and fans alike all tip Chamberlain to have a standout season but this is still yet to materialise.
A strong pre-season usually results in him being right at the forefront of Arsene Wenger’s thinking for each new Premier League season often resulting in a starting place during the first few games before he loses his place after going off the boil.
This season again, Oxlade-Chamberlain has had a strong pre-season and has earned himself a place in the current starting eleven for Arsenal at either right or left wing-back and this is where he played in the opening three games of Arsenal’s season.
Again, it remains to be seen whether he can keep himself in the Arsenal line-up throughout the season for the first time and really become a permanent fixture in the team. Many factors though would seem to indicate that this could finally, finally be his year.
Adapting to a new position seamlessly
Arsenal’s change to a 3-4-3 towards the end of last season gave the 24-year-old an opportunity to try out in a new position, this time as a wing-back and he has adapted to this challenge extremely competently.
His hunger to get past his player on the wing is visible for all to see as he notched several assists from this new position. His defensive work has also been pretty solid considering that he is still settling into this new position. He does occasionally switch off at the back but having a third centre-back does help to remedy this.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s physicality also makes him perfect in this position as when going forward he breezes past his full-back with a combination of sheer pace and physicality. These traits are equally beneficial when it comes to winning the ball back in defence.
This combination of skills along with his ability to whip in a dangerous cross make Oxlade-Chamberlain ideally suited to this new wing-back position even if the player himself has said that he would rather be playing in the middle of the park. Perhaps if this rich vein of form and game time continues then he could soon be making regular Arsenal appearances in central midfield.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has played the full 90 minutes in each of Arsenal’s opening three competitive matches despite the new signing of Sead Kolasinac who has thus far been deployed as a makeshift centre-back.
One thing that has worked in Chamberlain’s favour so far is that two of Arsenal’s strongest centre-backs, Koscielny and Mustafi have both been unavailable and it’ll be interesting to see what the Arsenal line-up looks like upon their return.
Will Oxlade-Chamberlain be able to keep his place with competition from Monreal, Kolasinac and Bellerin for the two wing-back positions?
If he continues to perform consistently it will be difficult to take him out of the side, and the more he plays as a wing back, the more his positional sense and his confidence will grow.
One issue that could affect the Englishman’s position in the starting eleven is his current unwillingness to sign a new deal at the club despite Wenger repeatedly expressing his desire to retain the player and even suggesting that he could be one of England’s stars in years to come.
Despite Wenger’s obvious faith in the player, issues over his contract could eventually lead to him losing his place in the line-up if it becomes clear that he definitely does not want to stay and Wenger decides to blood someone else more committed to the club in this new position.
Another potential issue could be if Arsenal change back to a 4-3-3 formation. This would put Chamberlain in direct competition for places with some of the Gunners strongest players as he is unlikely to be used as a full-back and will probably have to fight for an attacking position with the likes of Sanchez and Ozil.
Could be his best season yet
The Englishman no doubt has the qualities to succeed at Arsenal and this year could certainly be his best yet for the club.
Arsenal fans will tell you that they have seen this early season promise many times before, but they will be hoping that Chamberlain can perform at a consistently high level for the entirety of a Premier League campaign and prove his doubters wrong.
And finally reward fans with a season that helps Arsenal challenge for the Premiership title again.
Written by James Bairstow
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