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How Arsenal Should Replace the Injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Old Trafford

Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, left is substituted and replaced by Arsenal's Theo Walcott during the Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match between Arsenal and Barcelona at the Emirates stadium London, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Associated Press
James McNicholasFeatured Columnist IVDecember 18, 2016

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s form recently has been so indifferent he would've been in danger of getting dropped regardless of his fitness situation.

However, an injury has forced Arsene Wenger’s hand. When Arsenal go to Manchester United on Sunday, the Gunners boss must identify a new candidate for the right-wing role.

Delivering his pre-match bulletin before the trip to Old Trafford, Wenger confirmed to the club's official site that Oxlade-Chamberlain would be ruled out after colliding with Javier Mascherano in the match against Barcelona on Tuesday:

We lost Oxlade-Chamberlain on Tuesday night. It’s not [a recurrence of a previous injury]. Not at all. It’s a new injury. He has been cut in two by Mascherano and he did his knee. We have to see how big the damage is in his knee. He is consulting a specialist at the moment. Hopefully we will have good news. How long is he out for exactly? I don’t know. 

No injury is ever a blessing, but Oxlade-Chamberlain looked like a player who could do with a break. He missed Arsenal’s best chance against Barcelona, shooting straight at goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen when scoring seemed easier. He also wasted a great counter-attack in the same incident in which he got injured.

The man who replaced him from the bench was Theo Walcott, although his performance thereafter was utterly anonymous. This season, Wenger has generally preferred to use Walcott through the centre or occasionally as cover for Alexis on the left. It would now be something of a surprise if he were to be picked regularly in his old right-wing role.

Joel Campbell in a Premier League match against Chelsea.
Joel Campbell in a Premier League match against Chelsea.Frank Augstein/Associated Press/Associated Press

Joel Campbell certainly has a claim. The Costa Rican can consider himself a little unfortunate to have been dropped for Oxlade-Chamberlain after an impressive winter period. Campbell combines diligent defensive work with an eye for an incisive pass, and his finishing is arguably better than the Englishman’s too. What’s more, his tendency to cut inside onto his left foot creates space for Hector Bellerin on the overlap.

However, the man Wenger should turn to is surely Danny Welbeck. The forward has been in impressive form since his recent return from a 10-month lay-off and has the speed, mobility and team ethic to be effective on the flank.

Danny Welbeck in action against Barcelona.
Danny Welbeck in action against Barcelona.Matt Dunham/Associated Press/Associated Press

Speaking to the team's website, Wenger urged some caution with Welbeck:

I haven’t picked my team yet for Sunday. I cannot tell you that now at the moment. He is back in the squad but we still have to be cautious with him. He is still in the squad and he is not completely over his knee problem. He has done really well and is very fit. I have to analyse that.

Arsenal fans will hope he’s simply trying not to give the game away too publicly. Welbeck started at Old Trafford last season in the FA Cup with spectacular results, netting the vital winner against his former club. Arsenal fans would love to see him return to hurt them once again in the Premier League.

Welbeck already made a massive contribution to Arsenal’s season by netting the winner against Leicester City on Feb. 14. A starting role against United could provide him with another opportunity to leave his mark on the 2015/16 campaign.

 

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