Thus far, 2013/14 has not been an enjoyable season for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Now the young Englishman faces a fight to win back his first-team place with Arsenal—and his spot in the international squad.
The campaign began so promisingly for the man dubbed “The Ox.” He was picked to start the opening game of the Premier League season against Aston Villa and within minutes created the opening goal for Olivier Giroud. It seemed he was set to establish himself as a regular first-team starter.
However, in the very same match, Oxlade-Chamberlain picked up a knee ligament injury that has already kept him out for three months. According to David Kid of The Mirror, the problem is not yet close to clearing up. Kidd writes:
The Arsenal winger could be out until well into the New Year as the knee injury he suffered in his club’s defeat by Aston Villa on the opening day of the season is taking longer to heal than expected.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, 20, has now been told he cannot start training again until mid-December, meaning no comeback is likely until well into 2014.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has a problem. Arsenal are pushing on without him.
In his absence, Mesut Ozil has arrived, pushing Santi Cazorla on to the flanks and increasing competition for a place on the wing. Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott will both return to the squad imminently, and Serge Gnabry has made impressive strides. Oxlade-Chamberlain is in danger of being left behind.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has occasionally impressed as a central player. In his first season with the club, he shone as a box-to-box midfielder in the home tie with AC Milan. However, Arsenal are currently overstocked in the middle of the park—even the prodigious Jack Wilshere struggles to get a regular game.
Without regular club football, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s England place is also in danger. He had previously been a regular pick for Roy Hodgson. At 20, he has already amassed 13 international caps, with three goals to boot.
However, there is a risk he could become the forgotten man of England’s World Cup qualification campaign. The dazzling displays of Andros Townsend have bumped Oxlade-Chamberlain down the queue for a spot on the wing.
Hodgson has also shown a willingness to deploy Oxlade-Chamberlain as a bullish central-midfield runner. However, that berth is currently being filled by Ross Barkley, who is getting regular football under Roberto Martinez at Everton.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has the talent to fight his way back in. However, he is running out of time. He’ll be desperate to avoid any further setbacks as he sets about reclaiming his status and standing with club and country.
The Ox will require a tremendous late-season charge if he is to re-establish himself with Arsenal and England and make it to Brazil. When he does eventually come back, Arsenal fans can be sure that he'll be more motivated than ever.