Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain's Return to Fitness: Good News for Club and Country

Chris LinnellContributor IIIFebruary 3, 2014

Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, right, celebrates his his second against Crystal Palace with teammate Olivier Giroud during their English Premier League soccer match at Emirates Stadium in London, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Sang Tan/Associated Press

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returned to first-team football yesterday afternoon, firing Arsenal to the top of the Premier League table with two fine goals against Crystal Palace.

Making his first start after five months out with injury, the Gunners midfielder celebrated his comeback with both fine strikes in the 2-0 win over the Eagles.

Arsenal, bidding to win the title for the first time since 2003-04, gained a vital three points to move two clear with Liverpool and Manchester United, their opponents in their next two league games.

Chamberlain’s return to fitness will be like a new signing for Arsene Wenger’s team. Playing in an unfamiliar deep central midfield position, he brought a new sense of energy, pace and penetration to a fairly lacklustre team performance.

He earned a deserved Man of the Match award to cap a fantastic performance in which he scored two well-taken goals.

After a first half of few chances he operated in a more box-to-box role during the second 45 minutes. His excelled in this position by moving the ball forward quickly during transition phases of play. He featured mainly on the inside-left channel and this is where his two finishes came from.

Following a lovely dinked finish for his first, "The Ox" bagged a second after producing a terrific flick. The 20-year-old Englishman then continued his run, receiving the ball back from Olivier Giroud and going on to fire past the Palace keeper.

The January transfer window saw a lack of activity on behalf of the Gunners but perhaps the fans will have gone home thinking a little more about what they already have in their own squad. "The Ox" marked his comeback in delightful fashion and supporters will be praying for the same in upcoming weeks.  

The former Southampton star will also be a favourite to make England's hotly contested starting XI in the summer’s World Cup.

In my opinion, it will be a toss-up between "The Ox" and Andros Townsend come July and, at this moment in time, the former is perhaps the most suitable candidate for a starting berth. His newfound versatility could see him given the nod ahead of the Spurs winger, especially if he continues to impress for Arsenal.

Personally, I prefer seeing Chamberlain out wide in a role that enables him to use his pace and skill to attack the opposition full-back. However, we could see him utilized in a more central position following his fine performance against Palace on the weekend.

Let’s hope for Arsenal and England that he continues to play in a similar fashion for the rest of the season.