Why Antonio Valencia Should Follow Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into Center of Pitch

Jake NisseFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2014

Valencia could benefit from a move to the middle.
Valencia could benefit from a move to the middle.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Played as a winger for most of his young career, Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain his been shifted to the central midfield position in recent weeks, with injuries to Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere.

While Oxlade-Chamberlain was never really used as a central midfielder before with Arsenal's surplus of players there, it is clear he has the attributes to succeed in that role now that he's been given the chance.

With pace, strength, decent passing, and ever-growing goalscoring ability, "the Ox" is looking like the quintessential modern-day box-to-box midfielder.

Since returning from injury, the Englishman has flourished, amassing three goals and one assist in all competitions and impressing in the central role against Crystal Palace and Coventry Ctiy.

Through this sort of rebirth for Oxlade-Chamberlain, United should be considering having Antonio Valencia undergo the same sort of transition.

Valencia, an outside player as well, has had an underwhelming season. His 84 percent pass completion percentage seems decent, but he has created less than one chance per match, per Squawka. Like other seasons, his crossing has been poor, and he continues to look simply uncreative on the wings. 

However, what Valencia and "the Ox" do have in common is their physical characteristics. With arguably even more speed, strength and defensive ability than the Arsenal man, who is thriving in the center, Valencia could resurrect his career with a move to the middle.

If played in the center, Valencia will be asked to be less creative and simply use his physical abilities to control the center for United.

Even from a wing position, Valencia's defensive attributes are hard to ignore. Per WhoScored, Valencia averages 1.7 tackles and 1.6 interceptions per game. 

While Arsene Wenger has some tough decisions to make regarding his talented central midfield, David Moyes should see the decision to move Valencia to the center as a much easier one.

With Marouane Fellaini injured for most of the season, Darren Fletcher and Tom Cleverley only possessing the ability of squad players, and Michael Carrick never known for his defensive prowess, United's central midfield is undoubtedly thin.

Perhaps adding Valencia to the central midfield rotation will make this area of United's squad a little less thin, as he'd be more than comfortable as a physical, ball-winning half-back.

While Valencia could certainly thrive in this role, there'd be no downside in watching him fail in it either.

United are currently in seventh place and eight points off of Champions League qualification, unfamiliar territory for a team that has been known as a perennial title contender.

In this time of crisisand yes, it is a crisis—Moyes does not have the luxury of playing it safe and sticking to the status quo.

With 10 games left to save United's EPL campaign, the manager needs to start taking risks—and Valencia in the center seems like a pretty good one.


All stats and info via ESPN FC unless otherwise indicated.