Central Reservation Required For The Ox To Drive Arsenal Forward
It would be easy to drool over Aaron Ramsey’s technically imperious strike of the season or the flow of a shackle-free Arsenal performance, but the standout factor for me from last night’s win was the performance of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Ox was a stand-out performer, again showing that his pace and power can cause havoc from the centre of midfield. Wenger knows it’s his preferred position (Chambo even said as much in the post-match BT Sport interview after the Southampton win). It is therefore surprising why he hasn’t played in midfield this season, despite featuring often at centre midfield last season, even following Theo Walcott’s injury, and at a time when Arsenal were crying out for pace in the final third.
The main reason for this is the abundance of midfielders in the squad. As Wenger has predominantly played a 4-1-4-1 this season, that has often made just two spots available in central midfield, and with Ramsey, Wilshere, and Santi Cazorla ahead of The Ox in the pecking order it has been illogical to pick him in that position. Until now.
Last night Arsenal played a 4-3-3, allowing for Chamberlain and Ramsey to burst forward in tandem, with Chamberlain’s power in evidence throughout; at one point shrugging off Galatasaray ‘hard man’ Felipe Melo as if he were a rag doll. An explosive dribble through the heart of the Turks’ midfield provided Ramsey’s first goal, the kind of central burst we haven’t really seen since the Vieira days.
The main obstacle to Chamberlain starting through the midfield in weeks to come is of course, Santi Cazorla. The diminutive Spaniard has struggled this season until recent weeks when he too has featured from a more central area. Chamberlain offers more than Santi defensively, but can Arsenal afford to bench their chief playmaker – in the absence of Wilshere and Mesut Ozil?
It’s a tricky conundrum to get right, particularly given Arsenal’s defensive frailties, and the opposition may determine which approach to adopt, but Chamberlain has again shown, as he did against AC Milan a few seasons back, that a central role may get the very best out of him, and provide much needed power from midfield.
And Another Thing…
Check out Yaya Sanogo’s reaction to Ramsey’s wonder goal.