There is still no light yet at the end of the tunnel of injuries currently rocking Arsenal as the matches played so far continues to account for a number of key players that would have been sure starters in the coming matches ala Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey.
However, an injury to a particular player is always an opportunity for another to stake a consistent claim to a place in the first team. The loss of Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey no doubt represents a low point for Arsenal especially with two key matches in Europe against Galatasaray and in the Premier League against Chelsea coming up. In the place of Mikel Arteta, there is Mathieu Flamini who is the direct replacement for the Spaniard.
For Aaron Ramsey, there is Jack Wilshere, and to a larger extent Oxlade-Chamberlain. On the latter, Arsene Wenger had previously alluded to the fact that he sees him as a central midfielder in the long term, but then again, the Frenchman has about gone down that line about most Arsenal players.
Although, Oxlade-Chamberlain has seldom played in midfield, his best displays in an Arsenal shirt have all come in that position. He was first deployed there in a Champions League round of 16 match against AC Milan in 2012 after a raft of injuries in midfield; he was behind Arsenal’s 3-0 win that night, even though it fell short of overturning the aggregate score. Then just last season, he scored two goals from midfield against Crystal Palace when he again played there in February, arriving late into the box, Ramsey-esque to dispatch those goals.
While, those where the positives, the other times he has been deployed there, not from the start, it must be said, but as players have rotated positions in a match situation, just like the match against Borussia Dortmund two weeks ago, and Aston Villa at Villa Park. He has sometimes showed a tendency to hold on to the ball for longer than necessary, and at other times forgone the defensive responsibilities required in that position in central midfield. However, these are things that could be ironed out of his game in the long term when he plays there regularly.
The Ox has he is popularly referred to, has the physique, the pace, and the intelligence to play in that position in either of Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere’s absence. He could relish the freedom of the middle by putting in a display akin to what he did against AC Milan more than two years ago.
It is yet another opportunity for him to not just play in central midfield, but an opportunity for him to cement a place in the first team, and his versatility of being able to play in more than three positions would hold him in good stead. His goal in the North London derby on Saturday is expected to serve as a boost to him in the coming matches for the former Saints starlet.