Category Archives: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Injuries to Wilshere and Ox are a Good Thing™

In an international match fraught with tension, on whose outcome a solution to climate change, racism, and the crisis in Ukraine no doubt depended, England and Arsenal suffered a setback when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was bundled into, causing his right knee to buckle and possibly damaging ligaments. The restults of a scan have yet to be released, but Ox is all but sure to miss the World Cup, a devastating setback to the lad just after earning a chance to shine. We very nearly suffered a double-dose as Jack Wilshere looked like he picked up a little niggle, although his may have been more of the crampy variety. It’s a good thing that so much hung in the balance here, or we might be left wondering just why the match was played at all. More to the point, though, for as much of a setback as Ox’s injury may be to the Three Lions, it may yet come as good news for Arsenal.

Awkward: Ecuador midfielder Carlos Gruezo landed awkwardly on the knee of the midfielder

Hear me out. I know we’ve come to expect the worst when it comes to injuries, but there could still be a silver-lining to this one. Flush off of an FA Cup victory that slayed the trophy-drought and silenced a good many critics. Arsène might be tempted to believe that the squad is in fine shape, strong enough to mount and sustain a more serious challenge for the Prem title. After all, as we’ve all told ourselves, we might have won it this year were it not for injuries to Ox, Diaby, Walcott, Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Podolski….um, I think that’s it for the major ones. Hard to keep track, to be honest. I won’t even try to list the various niggles here and there.

All of those injuries were ignored. In fact, the only response we saw from Arsène felt almost more like satire if not slap-stick when, in the January transfer-window, he tried to bolster a midfield decimated by injuries by signing a midfielder who was already injured. It feels like a screenplay of the sort that Ionesco or Godot might have written.

However, Ox’s latest injury might serve as enough of a shot across the bow to jolt Arsène into some kind of action that actually amounts to something. For manager as averse to making ambitious moves in the transfer-window, setbacks, crises, and debacles do seem to light some kind of fire under the man. Källström might have been more a farce than a force, but it was something. In August, the capitulation to Aston Villa was followed by the signing of Özil. Prior to that, it was the injury to Kieran Gibbs that accelerated the singing of Nacho Monreal. Heck, this plucky l’il blog owes its existence to injuries and urgent transfer-business that sometimes follow.

While hoping and praying that Ox’s injury is not serious, I do hope that it forces Arsène to see just how vulnerable this squad is. For as satisfying and exhilarating as the FA Cup victory was, there will linger a bit of regret (if not harsher feelings) around the idea that we might have done better in the Prem. When we were at full strength (sorry, Abou), we were top of the table. However, the heavy minutes logged by those who inspired us to get there—Ramsey, Özil, Giroud, and others—led to some increasingly jaded performances from some as well as outright injury to others. For a manager whose transfer-policy alternates between “no thanks” and “who’s leaving/injured? Okay, fine, get someone from France on the line”, this latest bad news offers a fresh reminder that, yes, reinforcements are needed.

If that’s not silver lining enough, Ox’s injury will likely prevent him from suffering further injuries during the more-intense action, heat, and humidity of mid-summer football in Brazil. This was a friendly match in Miami (no laggard when it comes to heat or humidity). While we’re on the subject of who won’t play in Brazil, Jack Wilshere’s play against Ecuador was apparently lackluster enough that he may lose his place on the pitch, something that sits just fine with me if it means that he stays firmly planted on the bench instead of careening recklessly around the pitch. There may be unanswered questions about how much Jack has progressed in the last few years, but his progression as a Gunner will not be helped by logging heavy minutes in Brazil, subjecting those precious ankles to even more wear and tear.

Arsène will be in Brazil as a commentator, so there’s hope that this give him a chance to consort and fraternize with some very good footballers. If Ox isn’t going to play, perhaps he could drag himself along a few meters behind Arsène, sighing, groaning, and wincing every once in a while. “Hey, boss!” he could call out. “There’s Edinson. Let’s go talk to him!” And so on…

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FA confuses Gibbs and Ox again, and fans fightin’…

All rights’ in the world again, it seems. We’re back to winning ways. We all agree that Wenger should stay infinitely, Sanogo is full of potential, and fourth place is once again our target. Elsewhere, flowers are blooming, birds and bees are attempting to mate (although I’m almost sure there’s some kind of law, natural or otherwise, that agitates against this abomination. What would result? Birds that sting? Bees that sing? Birds with bees in their mouths and when they sing they shoot bees at you? The horror). Just when I thought that the chorus was warming up to sing a rousing rendition of kumbayah, however, the storm clouds gathered. Always with the storm clouds. Of course, it is raining in these parts, so that might be more about cold fronts and cumulonimubus clouds than symbolism…

First, the FA, proving that it either was a gleefully self-aware sense of self-deprecation, or blissful, casual, ignorance, mentioned in its match report that, during the FA Cup semifinal, “Gibbs’ [sic] shot skipped up off the Wembley turf and directly into the big German’s path—who was able to head home from three yards out”. Now, like me, you’re taking umbrage at the missing s that should follow “Gibbs'”, resulting in a word that sounds like “Gibbses”. If that didn’t get your panties in a twist, well, sit tight. That “who was able to head home” business? “The big German’s” is an adjectival phrase describing “path”—and the path is not a person “who was able to head home.” Don’t even get me started on their omission of the “F” part of “BFG.”  It’s almost enough to make their post-Marriner gaffe get lost in the shuffle. To have mistaken Ox for Gibbs not once but twice goes beyond the pallor—er, pale. Casual racism is one thing, but bad grammar? It’s all that separates us from the barbarians, infidels, and other less civilized types.

More seriously, though, are reports that Gooners came to blows on Saturday—with other Gooners. Apparently, in blocks 519 and 538, among others, differing opinions on how best to respond to Wigan’s goal led to philosophical exchanges that consisted more of pugilism than postulates. Look—whatever disagreements we might have, whose fault it is that we conceded or struggled to score or are in the fix we’re in—those can wait until after the match. Let the tempers cool and keep the focus on the players we do have on the pitch. Hurling abuse at the players, or turning on each other in the stands, just ain’t worth it. We’re all in this together, aren’t we? If you can’t hold your liquor and your temper at the same time, let someone who can have the seat. There are families there, some with kids, and while it’s one thing for a kid to hear a few new vocabulary words from time to time, they really shouldn’t have to fear for their safety. I won’t make too much of the anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy, but it does seem to merit a mention. It was, after all, almost 25 years ago to the day, and it was an FA Cup semifinal that resulted in death and injury. It seems a bit callous to resort to punching and fighting fellow fans and stewards because you’ve been overserved and/or have let your frustrations reach a boiling point.

Let’s hope that the win, for as messy and as tight as it was, gives some of the more hot-headed Gooners among us a chance to cool down and remember that it is, after all, just a game. For as much as we claim to love the game and this club, it seems ironic at best to express that love so forcefully, to the point of bloodying fellow fans and stewards. What would have happened had we lost? Yeesh. For as much attention as gets paid to throwing a banana on the pitch or making monkey-chants, I wouldn’t mind it in the least if the FA or Arsenal looked into this, found out who instigated the violence, and had them banned.

In the meantime, we have an appearance in the FA Cup final to celebrate—our first since winning it in 2005—not to mention a clash with West Ham to prepare for. Let’s set aside the feudin’ and get back to some fightin’—on the pitch.

Victoria Concordia Crescit.

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Gibbs and Ox both available to face Swansea after successful appeal

Good news from the FA as it ruled that Gibbs was dismissed through mistaken identity, and Ox will not serve any suspension at all. To wit, from the FA’s website and official announcement:

The Commission ruled that the dismissal of Kieran Gibbs was a case of mistaken identity and transferred this to his team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Subsequent to deciding this matter, the Commission then considered Arsenal’s claim for wrongful dismissal in relation to Oxlade-Chamberlain. This claim was upheld meaning Oxlade-Chamberlain will not serve any suspension with the standard punishment withdrawn with immediate effect.

Good news all around, obviously. Via twitter:

The wrongful dismissal came after Oxlade-Chamberlain deflected a shot with his hand, but because the shot was not clearly going in, apparently, Ox will not serve the one-match ban that might have otherwise followed.

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Who’s the next Gerrard—Ramsey or Ox?

First things first, I have to start off by saying that I’m not a big fan of the “he’s the next _______” routine. On the other hand, I don’t quite like the equally trite “he’s not the next _______; he’s himself” retort. However, when others in the know start offering comparisons, it’s hard not to get drawn in to t and to consider the possibilities. It was back in January that Arsène compared the Ox favorably to Steven Gerrard, and we’ve since seen Ox play through the middle on a few occasions to good effect, whether it was scoring a brace against Crystal Palace or slicing deep into Bayern’s defense time and again. Now, we have Ray Parlour, no slouch of a middie himself, comparing Aaron Ramsey to Gerrard. We surely can’t have two Gerrards, can we?

Anything you can do, I can do better…

However, as Arteta and Flamini age, the club will have to consider its options for the defensive midfield. Both Ramsey and, to a lesser extent, Ox have shown that they can flourish playing the box-to-box role. Ramsey, after all, has tallied 13 goals and seven assists from the deep-lying position. Ox, having missed most of the season to this point, has managed three goals and two assists, but the assessments of Arsène and Parlour are perhaps more pertinent than the stats.

Back in January, Arsène said of Ox, “He has a good long ball, penetration from deep, and a good quality to distribute and penetrate individually. Certainly he has the same qualities to Steven Gerrard.” Having played from the wing for most of his time at Arsenal, it’s easy to forget that he was brought in from Southampton to play centrally in the first place, although higher up the pitch as an attacker. It’s only been more recently—since January, in fact—that we’ve seen him play through the middle and as deep as the defensive midfield. Each time he’s done it, he’s delivered—the aforementioned brace against Crystal Palace, the dribbling display he put on against Bayern, the “assist” against Spuds. The sample-size is small, but the qualities he’s known for—directness, penetration, pace—have been front and center each time out. For as much as we might crave his pace on the wing to run in behind defenders, he may just be at his best attacking the heart of a defense.

Not to be outdone, Ramsey has drawn plaudits of his own from club legend Ray Parlour, who wrote, “Aaron Ramsey can become as influential as Steven Gerrard. Gerrard was the best player I have ever faced…Ramsey was the perfect box-to-box midfielder in the first half of the season and I always said if he could score a few more, he would be complete.” Well, perfect is a strong word to use, but if Parlour has any say in it, Ramsey is both perfect and complete. Done and dusted. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you—well, I guess I should expand. Ramsey may not be perfect, but he’s been nothing short of a revelation in that first half, scoring, assisting, orchestrating…if it weren’t for the injury, he might have been in the conversation for Player of the Season. For the Prem, that is, not just for Arsenal.

As delicious as it might be to imagine a midfield that consists of Ramsey and Ox bombing forward from deep, it begs the question of who would stay home to mind the defensive side of things. Ramsey might be more of a box-to-box player, as evinced by his team-leading 3.7 tackles per game, but do either he or Ox possess the inclination to commit to the defensive responsibilities that come with playing in front of the back four? For as much as we might lament the Arteta-Flamini pivot for lacking a forward-thinking element, we might come to regret a Ramsey-Ox pairing for opposite reasons. Then again, the dual threat they might pose as counter-attackers might make opposing teams that much more cautious about pressing up the pitch for fear of one of them taking the ball and marauding back upfield to score. After all, they’ve started doing so already. With Ramsey coming back soon, we might get a chance to see what the two of them can do when paired together.

As I started out by saying, I don’t like to talk of current players in terms of who’s the next so-and-so, but if we’re going to do it, we might as well keep it in-house. Between the two of them, Ox might more-closely resemble Vieira when it comes to those blistering runs upfield; Ramsey might more-closely resemble him for his grit and eagerness to go in for a tackle. If there’s a way to find room for them together on the pitch, forging a balance between defense and attack, so much the better!

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Oy, Everton. Mind the Ox.

When we’re still reeling a bit from the news that Jack Wilshere will be out after suffering a Hodgson—the highly specific medical diagnosis that is sure to be in all the best peer-reviewed medical journals shortly—it’s easy to overlook the crisitunity that this presents. With Wilshere and Ramsey gone, and with the Arteta-Flamini pivot a bit too static for my liking (and that of many others), my thoughts turn to returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the defensive midfield. While he’s only played through the middle once this season, and against Crystal Palace at that, there’s enough there to suggest that it’s a role he can do well with. Palace may not have the personnel to play Pulis’s defense as he prefers, but two goals is nothing to turn one’s nose up against, regardless of the opponent.  As we go up ahead Everton, another well-organized defensive unit, Ox’s pace, dribble, and directness would be welcome factors in diversifying and adding verve to an attack that too often relies on passing around to lull defenses into dropping their guard.

Playing through the middle would provide Ox a platform from which to launch the kind of quick counter-attacks that we’ve too often lacked in recent weeks. Picture him picking up the ball deep in our half and turning to bomb up field with teammates filling channels on the flanks—Podolski or Cazorla on the left, Giroud or Sanogo up the middle, along with Rosický and Özil, and Gnabry on the right. Ox’s speed slicing up the middle of an unsettled Everton defense could be just the tonic we need to soothe our jangled nerves and create the kind of clear chances we’ve sought in vain recently. After all, for as much as we’ll miss Wilshere, what we really seem to have missed is those runs that start from deep and that catch opponents when they’ve pressed higher up the pitch.

Against Crystal Palace, Ox played a bit conservatively, hewing close to Arteta in a more-defensive role, before bombing forward more frequently and with greater aplomb in the second half with two goals to show for his efforts. Going in against Everton, I would imagine him playing a similar role, eschewing the attack early on in order to get a sense for some of Everton’s proclivities. Later into the match, then, he should have a stronger sense of how Everton has set up and where he can maneuver. The likely absence of Jagielka might create some moments of disorder, especially if McCarthy or Barry push up field in attack, and this stretch of space could then offer Ox the seams that he loves to run into. The suggestion that Tim Howard, one of the Prem’s most-consistent keepers, might be rested in favor of Joel Robles. Not to underestimate Robles, but he’s conceded in each of his three appearances to date, against Sunderland, Southampton, and Swansea, and I like our chances against him.

If you’re not quite keen on the idea of Ox through the middle, there’s room on the wing for him, which might make better use of his pace, if not his directness. Coming on against Stoke, and against a Stoke that was defending a lead at home, he nonetheless found his way in behind their back four on a number of occasions and might have created the equalizer had Sanogo done better on the finish. This would then all but force us to use the Arteta-Flamini pivot. This might be wise for how it can help to shut down Lukaku, but I do have my concerns about this blunts our own attack. If we’re going to see Ox on the wing, then perhaps Rosický could pair with Arteta or Flamini in order to provide some forward-thinking. Then, with Ox on the right flank, defenses will have to mind his runs down the side and into the center. His understanding with Sanogo already looks strong, as evinced by some of their link-ups in previous matches such as against Liverpool and Bayern. As a side-note, I wonder if Sanogo is ready for open his account on Saturday.

The risk of playing him on the wing—or reward, depending—is that it would pit him more-directly against Leighton Baines. Who claims the advantage? On one hand, Baines would have to mind Ox and be far more cautious about pressing up the pitch, and his passing and service might suffer. Baines would have to think twice about taking set-pieces because the urgency around getting back would grow that much more. On the other hand, Baines might just shut Ox down, tracking his runs and denying him any service, and whatever threat Ox had posed from the flank is gone. If this means they effectively cancel out, who ends up with the upper hand?

One thing’s certain: we had better see Ox from the start on Saturday. He very nearly saved us a game in only 15 minutes of action against Stoke. He was a man of the match against Crystal Palace and Liverpool, and I’m feeling bold enough to predict that he’ll make some hay on Saturday, whether he’s skirting the edges of Everton’s defense or cutting its heart wide-open.

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