Gooners love this kid and, honestly, what’s not to love?
Fresh off an impressive Milan performance, I decided to make Oxlade-Chamberlain the next in my series of Arsenal’s summer purchases.
The son of a former England international and product of the famed Southampton academy, Chamberlain certainly boasts an impressive pedigree.
Breaking into the Southampton 1st team midway through last season, he finished the campaign with 10 goals and eight assists. Despite his potential, many fans were reticent when Wenger bought him last summer.
This frustration came amid grave uncertainty over the direction of the Arsenal football club.
With stars lined up to depart, a dismal end to the season, and persistent questions over locker-room leaders, many fans were skeptical about bringing in another young, unproven talent.
Ten goals is an impressive return for an 18-year-old, but it was League One.
Was he the kind of talent Wenger needed to be recruiting?
Didn’t the squad have enough raw kids with prodigious talent?
Oh, how far the summer seems now.
Gooners across the globe now clamor for this “kid” to be starting every game. Nothing epitomized this change of heart like when fans booed Wenger’s substitution of the Ox versus Manchester United.
What has caused Arsenal fans to fall in love with the Southampton star so quickly?
First and foremost, he has fantastic raw ability. Electrifying pace yet, unlike Walcott, it is blended with stunning ball control.
Chamberlain can beat defenders one-on-one, gliding past with ease before lofting in a pinpoint cross.
Chamberlain also has a rocket shot. There was the 25-yard screamer against City in the Carling Cup and the Youtube videos of him at Under-21 practice.
Without a doubt, the Ox will score some stunners.
Chamberlain, moreover, exhibits a winning personality.
Much like Wilshere last year, the Ox comes across well in interviews – showing a humble yet fun-loving demeanor.
And, lastly, Chamberlain thrives on the big stage.
While early on Wenger seemed to hold the Ox back, the last few months have seen an emergence for the young winger.
Thrust into high-pressure situations – United at home, FA cup ties – he has performed with maturity beyond his years.
Again, as Wilshere did last year, the youngest player on the pitch has oftentimes been the most effective.
The Milan game was the latest example of this.
Playing in an unfamiliar center-midfield role (though CM was his position as a youth team player) Oxlade-Chamberlain starred once more.
I suggested yesterday that he could be the long-term answer for set pieces, and his corner kick assist underscored this point.
Throughout the match, until his injury, the Ox drifted effortlessly throughout the midfield.
He was adept at helping back on defense, while also leading a number of dangerous attacks.
No move more important than his run that ended in a penalty.
Starting out right, before cutting in between two defenders, Chamberlain showed off the characteristics that have Gooners everywhere so enamored: pace, strength and trickery.
Overall, despite initial skepticism, Arsenal fans have come around to Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Although young, and relatively inexperienced, he has already asserted himself as key player for the Gunners.
Though not a guarantee for the first 11, he is well on his way.
While other transfer buys have not provided the results many fans were looking for, it is fair to say the Ox has far exceeded expectations.
And, with a young star in the making, Arsenal and Wenger continue to build a strong foundation that could lead the team to greater heights in the coming years.
Exciting times to be a Gooner, that's for sure.
Let’s just hope Wilshere returns by the 2013 North London Derby.
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