Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain really caught the eye in Arsenal's 2-1 loss to Manchester United in late January. You could find him darting all over the place, making clever off-ball runs and beating defenders at a rate that isn't generally expected from a kid who is just 18 years old (and whose name isn't Leo Messi).
Once he was spotted on Arsene Wenger's radar, Arsenal fans needed a concrete sense of just how this youngster went about his business because not a lot of Gooners watched Southampton on a regular basis. As it turned out, Oxlade-Chamberlain was being tipped as the next Theo Walcott with more strength and a final ball.
And as it is with all signings, a fan is excited to see the performance of the new kid on the block, on the edge of his or her seat to discover whether the signing is as good as he is made out to be.
In the Ox's case, you can see that he has talent. Loads of it. But the only problem is that it wasn't really on display as much as some fans (myself included) would have liked.
For as much talent as the young Englishman has, it doesn't seem like he got enough match experience in the 2011/2012 season, making only 16 Premier League appearances—only six of them were starts. His role was really to be the backup for Theo Walcott and Gervinho out on the wings, though he did snatch the starting spot from the Ivorian when his form started to dip.
Wenger said it himself, according to The Sun:
Alex is developing well. He has still a lot to learn but the potential is absolutely fantastic.
But with such a hot talent at only 18 years old, Wenger's main concern should be to develop him. Thankfully for Arsenal, the kid's health is in tact, but if another superstar is in the making, he'll need as much match time as possible.
This is why he should be loaned for a season.
Rewind to last summer, before Jack Wilshere had picked up the unfortunate injury that would keep him out for an entire season.
He was loaned out to Bolton in 2009 as a mere 17-year-old and made more appearances at the DW Stadium than he would have at the Emirates—what with Song and Diaby getting most of the minutes at holding midfield.
Upon his return from Bolton, Wilshere was spotted as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League, fighting his way into a starting spot for Arsenal and turning some heads while doing so. He had a wonderful 10-11 season, and then ankle and knee problems turned up for him.
But the lesson of the story is that loaning players out to minor EPL clubs makes them more mature and gets them used to life in the top level of English football.
This point can be emphasized more strongly with the signing of Lukas Podolski from Cologne.
Podolski likes to play on the wings and will probably be prioritized over "Ox Chambo," as he is more experienced, at age 27. Additionally, the now-confirmed transfer of Olivier Giroud will take up space in the attack and hurt Oxlade's chances of playing (even if they don't play the same position).
Plus, there's no doubt that some Premier League team or another is lacking wingers and would love to temporarily bring in the speedy youngster. That way, instead of being after Walcott, Gervinho, Podolski and maybe even Yossi Benayoun, the Englishman can be a starter for a lesser team and still be able to get used to dealing with Premiership defenders.
And some people will be more excited than ever to see Oxlade-Chamberlain return from loan after hopefully getting more mature elsewhere. I know I will. Why?
Because the Gunners may just have a rising star on their hands.