Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Arsenal late last summer for a fee of around £10m, and had an eventful season. He debuted in the 8-2 debacle at Old Trafford. Arsene Wenger was booed for removing him from the return fixture for Andrey Arshavin. Until he had to be removed due to injury, he was possibly the best player on the pitch in the 3-0 almost-comeback win against AC Milan. He made a lot of appearances (15 starts, 11 relief) but eight were for less than twenty minutes, so that may be a little bit misleading. He also scored four goals, including one immediately after I walked into a bar to watch the non-crappy Olympiakos game. He was good sometimes, and not as good sometimes, and while people really wanted him to play more than he did, in the long run this season probably was about perfect for The OC.
I'll continue trying to ram home my favorite Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain nickname after the jump.
Thomas: I think that after Ramsey and ahead of Walcott, The OC has probably had the greatest disparity between the way everyone else reacts to him and the way I react to him this season. Back when he wasn't really playing much, a lot of Gooners wanted him to get more minutes; I was largely unconvinced that he'd earned it, and wary of putting too much on a kid that we didn't know a ton about. Then he started getting playing time, and I became a believer. Not really in his current form - he's 18 and still has a lot of rough edges - but in what he could become. He does things that I like, including Dribbling, Running At Defenders, Being Fast, Being Strong, and Not Giving A Shit. Like I said above, I think The OC was handled well this year; he got experience and learned what he needs to work on to be a mainstay in this league, and he wasn't run into the ground like certain other English wunderkinds have been. I just hope that people can handle rooting for him in a mature fashion, and that he isn't made to be something he isn't.
Ted: My first instinct when thinking about Alex Oxlade-Chmaberlain was to think that he hadn't actually played that much this past year, but he did make 26 appearances (many of them as a sub, though). What he showed in flashes was the following: fearless dribbling straight at defenders, good passing, a willingness to shoot from anywhere, and good crossing. He was a force in the AC Milan home leg, and he was playing well against Manchester United before being subbed off. The main thing for Chamberlain at this point is just that he doesn't know what he can't do, which isn't a problem save for that he often tries to do too much, and he sometimes failed to make an impact in his short time on the pitch. But he's 18 and hungry, so that's not as big a problem as if he were, say, 28. He clearly has the skill and willingness, and everyone says he has a good head on his shoulders. I can't wait to watch him in more action this August.
Grade: B- (he's young, he will be getting As soon, no fear)
Paul: It's easy to forget that the athletes we watch are, in a lot of cases, as young or younger than we the fans are. I look at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hereinafter referred to as Ox because man that's a long name to type), it is very beneficial to remember that if he lived in this country, he would have just gotten the right to vote, and couldn't legally taste alcohol for three more years. At the top level of sports, there are no excuses, but there are reasons - and being 18 is the reason I'll not be overly critical of Ox. He's got boatloads of promise, and he showed his potential in patches last season, against Milan at home being the first one that leaps to mind, but he's still so young and so raw that his flashes of promise were matched by flashes of being 18 - young, impetuous, and thinks he has to do way more than he actually does have to do. I am really excited about this kid's future, and I hope it's primarily in red and white, but he's going to be a good one. I only wish he'd put his whole name on the back of his shirt, surrounding his number - OXLADE on top and CHAMBERLAIN on the bottom. MAKE IT HAPPEN.
Grade: B- (but he will be the kid who looks back on his academic record someday and sees his lone B- in art among a sea of A's in classes like differential calculus, chemistry, and statistics, and realizes that art is bullshit)
Aidan: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain highlights the flip-flopping nature of Arsenal's loudest silly fans. Back in August, Piers Morgan was saying we shouldn't have signed him. In January, Piers Morgan was saying Arsene Wenger shouldn't have taken the Ox off, calling it the worst decision he'd ever seen. Piers Morgan is an idiot, and so are quite a few other fans. I'm writing that because it's not hard to come up with impossibly high expectations for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; this is, after all, someone who is barely older than this writer (and look what said writer is doing!). He showed a lot of promise last year, dribbling past many fullbacks, using his pace well and passing very well. He played on the left, on the right and through the middle, and although the middle may be his future, he wouldn't be a bad winger either. He was excellent against Manchester United and AC Milan; not so much against Newcastle and Sunderland. He can, on occasion, try to do too much, as evidenced by his performance for England yesterday. He's not yet a world-beater, though, and there are reasons it took a midfield injury crisis and the continual badness of Andrei Arshavin for Arsene Wenger to finally start the Ox, and why he didn't complete a single Premier League game. There are things to work on, but based on his best moments, Oxlade-Chamberlain will be a very good player for Arsenal. It's just not going to happen yet, which is why I don't want to set high expectations for Oxlade-Chamberlain; I'd rather set realistic ones and see him meet or exceed them.