Although Arsene Wenger’s primary concern will be strengthening Arsenal’s squad this summer, he will also be contemplating which of his players to let go. One player who's been mentioned as a possible departure is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has endured another difficult campaign.
On balance, that is probably the right decision; Oxlade-Chamberlain could yet fulfil his undoubted potential in north London.
There’s definitely a decision to be made, though. With two years remaining on his contract, Oxlade-Chamberlain has arrived at the point when clubs generally have to make a decision about a player’s future. Once a player enters those final two years, the club’s hand begins to weaken should they later opt to let the player go. Arsenal must choose between extending his contract or selling him.
The case to sell is based around another season of underachievement for Oxlade-Chamberlain. After scoring a terrific goal in the Community Shield victory over Chelsea in August, the winger was expected to kick on and develop significantly throughout 2015/16. He was picked in the starting XI for the first Premier League game of the season—a clear indicator of Wenger’s faith in his talent.
However, Oxlade-Chamberlain committed a key defensive error in that match—a habit that would dog him throughout the first half of the season. He conceded possession, leading directly to a West Ham United goal, showing his immaturity and poor decision-making.
Those defensive slips might be tolerated if Oxlade-Chamberlain were producing regularly at the other end of the pitch. However, as detailed by Squawka, his 22 Premier League appearances in 2015/16 yielded just one goal and zero assists.
Nevertheless, if he were to be sold, there would certainly be takers. Oxlade-Chamberlain remains a promising player, and Steve Stammers of the Mirror suggested that champions Leicester City could be considering him as a potential summer signing. As a young England international, Oxlade-Chamberlain would certainly be an attractive proposition to many Premier League clubs. The premium pricing of homegrown talent would also ensure his sale would add significantly to Arsenal’s transfer budget.
They’re not exactly in need of money, though. Arsenal have financial muscle like never before and no longer need to sell players in order to bring in flesh blood.
Despite his disappointing 2015/16 campaign, Arsenal should still keep Oxlade-Chamberlain around. It’s easy to forget he is still only 22 years old and some way from what is likely to be his peak. If he can overcome the persistent injury problems, he could be an outstanding player. Wenger has persisted with Theo Walcott for a decade—to discard the more naturally gifted Oxlade-Chamberlain after half that time would seem hasty.
The injury to Danny Welbeck will also surely be a factor in Wenger’s thoughts. Although Welbeck prefers to play as a central striker, he provides an option on the flanks. Oxlade-Chamberlain has the versatility to help cover for the former Manchester United man’s absence.
On the evidence of last season, Oxlade-Chamberlain doesn’t deserve to start 2016/17 as a regular at Arsenal. However, he should be given one final chance to earn a place in the squad. Having put so much time into his development, it would be hugely frustrating to watch him fulfil his potential elsewhere.
James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and is following the club from a London base throughout 2015/16. Follow him on Twitter here.