Speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of the second leg of the Champions League qualifier with Besiktas—a tie currently poised at 0-0—Wenger backed the young England midfielder to follow in the footsteps of David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane by shining in both wide and central midfield berths:
Wenger: "Beckham and Zidane played on the flanks and they turned out to be world-class players. Alex can be the same." #AFCvBES— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) August 26, 2014
The former Southampton man was also in attendance and insisted that while he enjoys operating in a central role, he’s happy to play anywhere his manager asks him:
With an embarrassment of riches available in midfield positions, Oxlade-Chamberlain may well have to bide his time and take his opportunities when they arise, regardless of the position on the pitch. But having been referred to by his boss in the same bracket as those sorts of players, you can guarantee he’ll be hungry to make an impact in what’s a crucial game for the Gunners.
Wenger also discussed a host of injury problems that the club is facing, the most pressing being the knock suffered by Olivier Giroud in Arsenal’s match at Everton. The French forward emerged from the bench to transform the Gunners’ fortunes at Goodison Park, and he netted a last-minute equaliser to salvage a vital point for his team.
Unfortunately for the Frenchman, reports in the written press have suggested he could miss up to three months with an ankle injury, per Jack Pitt-Brooke of The Independent. While Wenger admitted Giroud won’t make the Besiktas game, he refused to put a timeline on the player’s recovery period:
With Giroud seemingly set for a lengthy absence, speculation has emerged about whether the Gunners will be delving into the transfer market to sign another striker. But Wenger could be set to hand Lukas Podolski a chance despite speculation that the German could be on his way out of the club, per Vaishali Bhardwaj of Metro.
When pressed on the player’s future, Wenger insisted he’s going nowhere:
Meanwhile, Oxlade-Chamberlain was quick to challenge the rest of the team to chip in with more goals to compensate for Giroud’s absence:
In more positive news for the Gunners, Wenger confirmed that injuries to both Mikel Arteta and Kieran Gibbs are minor and that both players should be back in the fold soon:
Both player and manager were also quick to point to the significance of the clash with Besiktas. Arsenal faced a tough game in the first leg, and they’ll be well aware that the job is far from done against the Turkish side. But Oxlade-Chamberlain thinks the Gunners can take heart from their superb defending in the first leg:
After playing four games in less than a fortnight, it’ll be interesting to see what line-up Wenger selects for this particular clash. It’s an important game, of course, but at this early stage of the season when players might not quite be at their peak fitness, he’ll be wary of working certain squad members too hard.
Oxlade-Chamberlain's hunger to prove himself in the Champions League is unashamedly obvious, and his dynamism and industry would certainly assist Arsenal as they look to unsettle their Turkish opponents. Plus, having been tasked with emulating Zidane and Beckham, it’d be no surprise to see the 21-year-old turn in a fine performance with his manager's challenge ringing in his ears.