Arsenal Transfer News: Gunners Land Next Great Star in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Gooners near and far, it's time to rejoice!
A week ahead of his 18th birthday, Oxlade-Chamberlain will leave the Saints for north London by way of an up-front transfer fee of £12 million, which could eventually grow to £15 million. Either way, it shatters the record for the most expensive transfer of a player from a championship club.
And for the Gunners and their supporters, it will be worth every last penny for a laundry list of reasons.
The youngster, who hails from Portsmouth, Hampshire, has an excellent football pedigree as the son and nephew of former English footballers Mark and Neville Chamberlain, respectively. More relevantly, he is following closely in the formidable footsteps of fellow Arsenal starlet Theo Walcott, who blazed the trail from St. Mary's Stadium to Emirates back in 2006 when he signed with the Gunners on his 17th birthday.
By his own merits, Oxlade-Chamberlain is and will be far superior to both of his close relatives, and may even trump Walcott in time as an all-around footballer. He has already displaced near-perfect pace and an uncanny ability to beat defenders at will, though his greatest asset may yet be his versatility.
In a statement about his latest acquisition, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger said of Oxlade-Chamberlain:
"Alex is a versatile player who can play in a number of positions. He can play as an attacking centre midfielder, or wide left and right. Alex is a perceptive passer of the ball and has a great understanding of the game and looks to be a very good team player."
In short, the kid can do it all.
The onus will be on "Le Professeur" to decide how best to utilize him this season as Arsenal aim to rebound from a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Premiership last season.
Oxlade-Chamberlain will bring a dose of creativity and ingenuity to Arsenal's fluid 4-3-3 style, while also improving the club's ability to possess the ball in the midfield, which was an issue at times last season. However, Wenger must take great care not to overload his young phenom, who has never played above League One and may be in store for a bit of culture shock in the rough-and-tumble EPL.
That sort of care and responsibility is the kind that Wenger certainly wouldn't mind, though, especially after struggling so mightily in the transfer market for most of the summer. Oxlade-Chamberlain is just the third newcomer to arrive at Emirates this offseason, following Lille striker Gervinho and 19-year-old Charlton Athletic defender Carl Jenkinson.
Of course, Wenger has spent the last month-and-a-half sidetracked amid speculation that two of his finest players, midfielder Cesc Fabregas and winger Samir Nasri, were keen to leave for Barcelona and Manchester City, respectively. Neither has moved and isn't likely to with the start of meaningful fixtures so close at hand, thereby relieving Wenger of that long-standing burden, at least for now. He can instead focus on developing his newest toy into the next great British footballer.
How will the "Ox-Lad" fare with Arsenal this season?
But, as with any young star in any sport, players, coaches, supporters and observers alike must be careful to temper their expectations, at least from the outset.
As previously mentioned, the "Ox-Lad" is still a teenager and has yet to be exposed to the physicality of Premiership play, much less the pressure of competing for one of the most popular sides in the entire world. Much has been given to Oxlade-Chamberlain to this point and, as such, much will be expected of him, though it will undoubtedly take some time for him to live up to his lofty billing.
As such, don't expect the starlet to make a huge impact until at least mid-season, if that.
The safe bet here would be to wait until the 2012-13 season before making any fantastic predictions about the great heights to which Oxlade-Chamberlain will ascend in what is likely to be a long and decorated career in professional football.
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