Andy Gray: Why Arsenal whiz Oxlade-Chamberlain must go to Euros - and deserves Rooney comparison

Sharethematch.com ambassador Andy Gray was talking exclusively to tribalfootball.com…
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Sharethematch.com ambassador Andy Gray was talking exclusively to tribalfootball.com…

WHEN YOU look at the possibilities for England’s squad at Euro 2012 you have a strong first eleven but you need the other players to offer an alternative option – which is why I think it Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a must.

During a game, if it’s not going so well or you need something to unlock the door, whoever is in charge of England will need to look at his substitutes bench and say – you offer me something different. And the Arsenal winger does just that.

There’s no use having 11 substitutes that exactly mirror your starting line-up. Oxlade-Chamberlain is a guy who can really upset defenders. He’s young and he’s driven and most importantly he’s hungry to impress, and he could catch a few international teams by surprise.

Whether or not Oxlade-Chamberlain gets the nod, I think it depends on how strongly he finishes the season. If he hits form and is positive and is stealing the show at the Emirates, the new England boss will almost have no choice.

But Arsene Wenger is quite keen to protect him, and we’ve often seen him being subbed off around 60 or 70 minutes. And if he doesn’t hit the highs, the England manager may well say to him, ‘you carry on learning your trade and we’ll go from there.’

If people are comparing him to Wayne Rooney, I can see where they are coming from to an extent. Oxlade-Chamberlain is strong, he’s quick, he’s confident, he’s fearless and he seems comfortable playing in wide areas or through the middle, which are all qualities that people saw in Rooney as a teenager.

But I think it’s too early to say what he best position is. I wouldn’t be too concerned about cementing him down to one position. You don’t want to shackle him in any way and Arsene Wenger’s approach has clearly worked so far. Let the boy play his natural game and learn his trade in whichever position his manager needs him to play.

When he’s working with players on form like Robin van Persie, Tomas Rosicky, Theo Walcott, it’s only going to benefit him, and Arsenal have been getting the results to match those performances.

They’ve certainly papered over whatever cracks there were earlier in the season, and I think a lot of what was said that about Arsene Wenger back then was a bit excessive.

Arsenal are right back in the chase now and you would have to say that they are probably favourites to get a Champions League spot, even to finish third.

They are right on the coattails of Tottenham now and their rivals know that, and will certainly be feeling the pressure of them breathing right down their necks.

Three weeks ago, Tottenham had more than daylight between them and Arsenal but that’s not the case any more and they really can’t afford to make any more mistakes.

Spurs have been a little bit off the boil but credit must go to Arsenal for still believing and trusting their manager.

 
Andy Gray is an official ambassador for Sharethematch.com – Football’s Social Network. Available now for FREE online or at the App Store; http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/share-the-match/id450784289?mt=8

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