Chelsea’s thin squad is causing a lot of concern down at Stamford Bridge, especially with a vital game against Tottenham on Sunday. It’s rare that games in August are considered vital, but with the Premier League title race as competitive as it has ever been, an early clash between the sides that finished first and second last season is already a must-win, especially after Chelsea were so poor in their first game.
It’s no wonder then, that rumours about new signings are starting to heat up, with Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain seemingly at the top of Antonio Conte’s shopping list.
The Arsenal player has, like Alexis Sanchez, just 12 months left on his contract and appears reluctant to re-up with the Gunners. In his latest press conference, Arsene Wenger was assertive in his desire to see Oxlade-Chamberlain stay at Arsenal.
Yes, he is staying here. Why? Personally, because I rate him highly and he’s one of the players who is on his way up.
In the last year, he has made huge progress and personally I want him to stay here for a long time.
I’m convinced he will be the English player that everybody will look at in the next two years at the end of the season.
Wenger likes him then, but “The Ox” has never been a mainstay in the Arsenal team. Last season he started 16 Premier League games, finishing just five of those starts. He scored twice and had seven assists in last year’s league, maybe not the return you would expect of a player that is seemingly coveted by two of the top teams in the country, so why does Conte want to bring Oxlade-Chamberlain down to the Bridge?
Oxlade-Chamberlain arrived at Arsenal from Southampton as an out-and-out right winger. As is his way, Arsene Wenger began moving him around during his time at the Emirates, putting him on the left, allowing him to cut inside, even giving him time in a central midfield role where Oxlade-Chamberlain’s speed and quickness were a real problem to the opposition. Towards the end of the 2016/17 campaign, Arsene even gave him time at wingback when he switched to the in-vogue 3-4-3 and he was good.
That kind of positional flexibility is something Chelsea desperately need right now. With Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, and Gary Cahill missing from Sunday’s game there are plenty of holes that need filling in Conte’s first XI. Having someone who can fill in for Hazard, rotate with Marcos Alonso, play in the middle with Fabregas out… That kind of player is extremely important in a squad of 25.
It feels like Oxlade-Chamberlain has been around forever. He moved to Arsenal in 2011 after all, however he has just celebrated his 24th birthday. There is still an incredible amount of football, and improvement, to come from Oxlade-Chamberlain. His peak is still a year or two away, which would make this summer the perfect time to bring him to Stamford Bridge.
Premier League experience
Plenty of big names and “can’t miss” players have come to England and struggled to adapt to the speed and physicality of the Premier League. Every time a team bring in a player from outside the Premier League it is a risk. There is no such risk with Oxlade-Chamberlain. He knows the pace and the quality of the league and will be able to step straight into the Chelsea side without need for the softly-softly approach that, for example, Jose Mourinho used with Henrikh Mkhitaryan last season.
This is the sticking point. Chelsea are reportedly offering £25 million, which a day after Gylfi Sigurdsson moved for £45 million seems unreasonably low. Even with just a year on his deal remaining like Alexis, he is the player most likely to stay put at Arsenal. It’s the club he has been with for almost all his professional career. He has proven to be a consistent and dangerous player with the Gunners. He was impressive in the Community Shield against Chelsea, using his pace and vision to create chances going forward and take them away without the ball. Both managers are justly keen on him, the question is who will win out in the next two weeks.
I suspect that if Conte and Chelsea wave £35 million at Wenger he will be hard pressed to say no. It’s a good sum to get for someone who, right now, is a rotation player. Combine that with some revenue from an Alexis Sanchez deal and suddenly Arsenal are in position to get a world class replacement…
His transfer could be a win-win for all involved.
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