Published on Goonersphere.
New ideas bring new viewpoints. Standing in a different position gives a completely different look on proceedings, and this may just have happened in recent weeks for Arsenal – and certainly for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The stagnation of Arsenal looked to have taken root. Four consecutive away losses, of which we conceded three goals each time. A royal hammering at the hands of Bayern Munich. Falling away in the Premier League. The rot appeared to have gone all the way through the squad and there was no fight evident, there was no resistance. Only a meek surrender akin to an injured gazelle, too exhausted to keep running from the chasing predators. We were easy prey, rivals and smaller clubs taking advantage of an apparently stricken beast.
Arsene Wenger looked to be devoid of ideas, arms wide and raised in a desperate signal to the gods. His tried and trusted tactics were no longer up to scratch, they were in fact dragging the team down. The players also looked unable to find the extra gears they required to simply avoid defeat.
Wenger picked up the dice and threw. He opted to change formation and go with three central defenders at the back for the first time since 1997. On that occasion, we had Steve Bould, Tony Adams and Martin Keown in the team. Three of the hardest, most disciplined and organised defenders the Premier League has ever seen. This time though, we had Laurent Koscielny marshalling the errant Gabriel and the inexperienced Rob Holding.
The formation may have been branded as wholly new by all and sundry, but the only difference was it gave our fullbacks a bit more license to roam forward.
It also gave Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a bit more responsibility – and he has taken it and run with it.
In the games it has been employed, we have looked more alive than in recent months and The Ox has been instrumental.
We were all aware of his attacking threat and his intent with the ball. We were also aware of his tendency to lose the ball as he takes on players. This season has seen a wiser Ox though, and his utilisation at central midfield earlier in the season saw him in a far more efficient light than in previous seasons.
It is his work in a wing-back role in this 3-5-2 that has been revolutionary though. Who knew that The Ox could double-task? He has been asked to patrol the right side of the pitch – both in defence and attack, and he has done so with zeal and merit.
He has changed games in attack as he searches for the early ball or to torment his opposing fullback. The Ox has enhanced his dribbling and he has lessened the wastefulness that has blighted his time an a Gunners shirt. He has improved his final ball and has made sure he has lifted his head up rather than ploughing on into blind corners. He has made the difference.
It is in defence though that he has proved his worth. He has been quite excellent in covering the defensive part of the field, he has helped out Gabriel in that part of the pitch in a massive way.
The Brazilian has come on leaps and bounds with the security offered by Chamberlain. The Ox’s reservoirs of stamina means he has been up and down his flank like a clock pendulum on meth amphetamine.
If this formation sticks and we adopt it, then The Ox will be as vital a player as any other on the field. His adaptability has seen him rise to the fore and this in turn may just get him the improved contract he desires – and now warrants.