Now that Arsenal have signed Petr Čech, Arsenal fans are waiting with bated breath for the next transfer move, demanding both a midfielder and a world-class striker. The likelihood is that Arsenal sign an upgrade to Francis Coquelin but don't sign the world-class striker or playmaker, for two good reasons. The first is that the availability of such a player is very low. The second reason is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
In the past, Arsène Wenger has not made signings on the basis of players already at the club. Most famously, Xabi Alonso was not pursued past a certain fee because of the presence of Alex Song, Abou Diaby and Denilson. This is a new Arsenal, however, with the funds to sign proven quality upgrades, as evidenced by the purchase of Čech earlier this week despite the presence of Wojciech Szczęsny and David Ospina. But whereas the quality of Diaby, Denilson and Song (especially the latter two) was questionable, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deserves to have every chance at becoming a regular player for Arsenal. Given that the upcoming season will be Oxlade-Chamberlain's 5th at the club, it might feel that he's already had those chances. It is easy to forget, though, that he is only 21.
Furthermore, much like much of the side, Oxlade-Chamberlain's time at Arsenal has been interrupted by injury: he missed five months after damaging his MCL at the beginning of the 2013/14 season, missed the cup final due to a groin injury and then missed the World Cup. In the 2014/15 season, Oxlade-Chamberlain played every game in Arsenal's season until the fourth round of the FA Cup which he missed with injury, and then missed the final two months of the season with hamstring and groin injuries. During this past season, though, he seemed to raise his game to a new level, and during the first half of the season, was probably Arsenal's second-best player after Alexis Sánchez.
Of course, if Oxlade-Chamberlain is to make the breakthrough that many expect, given the position he plays, it will have to show in the goal and assist tally. Oxlade-Chamberlain had a fine season as a direct, tricky wide player who could both cross and create, and given the general state of Arsenal during most of the matches he played, he can be forgiven for the paucity of his assist record: only 4 in 37 games. Beyond that, Oxlade-Chamberlain was 5th in creating chances per 90 minutes, behind Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla and Alexis, and joint with Aaron Ramsey. Furthermore, Oxlade-Chamberlain offers a hybrid between winger and creator, the type of variation that is rare at the highest level. Not only does he offer genuine width and the ability to beat his full back with trickery and pace, he's a two-footed player who is comfortable coming inside and creating chances by playing one-twos and through balls, which explains why only Arsenal's best playmakers are ahead of him in creating chances.
If there is one area that Oxlade-Chamberlain can improve, it is his composure in front of goal. For a player who strikes the ball incredibly cleanly, his goal record is not great. His movement, also, can improve. Yet Oxlade-Chamberlain seems to be in a position not very different from Aaron Ramsey at the beginning of 2013: a good number of his shots seem to hit the bar or post, or are denied for a variety of reasons, and one gets the sense that once they start flying in, Oxlade-Chamberlain can become a 10-goal per season threat. Another caveat is between injury to both, Oxlade-Chamberlain has only played wide with Mesut Özil central nine times since the beginning of 2013/14. In those nine games, Arsenal won six, and in those nine games, both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Özil were involved in five goals:
1. Oxlade-Chamberlain (1-0) v Liverpool, 2013-14 FA Cup 5th Round
2. Podolski (2-0) v Liverpool, 2013-14 FA Cup 5th Round
3. Arteta (2-1) v Everton, 2013-14 FA Cup 6th Round (penalty, won by Oxlade-Chamberlain)
4. Özil (1-0) @ Aston Villa, 2014-15 Premier League
5. Monreal (1-0) @ Manchester United, 2014-15 FA Cup 5th Round
Of those five goals, four gave Arsenal the lead, and one extended Arsenal's lead shortly after halftime. They were big moments in big matches, and matches where Arsenal's decision-making on the ball had to be more precise due to having less of the ball and fewer chances. It speaks well to Oxlade-Chamberlain's development that he can have a positive influence on the biggest games. And with his performances in 2014-15 reaching a new level of consistency, Oxlade-Chamberlain seems to be, fitness provided, on the brink of an Aaron Ramsey type breakthrough season. Because of that, it would not be surprising to see Arsène Wenger stick by him.