An inspiring win at the weekend vs. Crystal Palace, took Arsenal back to the top of the Premier League with Manchester City falling short at home against Chelsea. With so many of the top teams dropping points to teams further down the table, Arsenal are beating these sides which creates space for them to drop points in big games, which is one of the factors making the fight for top four so tight.
England and Arsenal fans need not to worry after Theo Walcott has been ruled out for so long, due to the return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Although his appearance against Crystal Palace was from a central midfield position, the 20 year old caused problems all day going forward and with his defensive work.
A first start in 5 months, since the opening day of the season against Aston Villa, saw the Ox take 4 shots, with 50% of these on target (2), and the others blocked and off target. You could clearly see he wanted to be a part of Arsenal’s success so far which he had missed. One of the four shots was a clear cut chance and being 100% clinical, he didn’t let the manager down and proved his competency to put the ball in the goal.
Both shots on target were goals and both deserve praise for the number 15’s awareness of space and creativity. First of all to provide the Gunners with the lead just after half time, as Santi Cazorla drew majority of the Crystal Palace team in, Oxlade-Chamberlain made a darting run from centre midfield into the box, and unmarked he managed to receive a lobbed pass, touching the ball down, and casually lifted the ball over Speroni. For his second he received a firm pass into his feet, managed to check his shoulders, spotting a defender closing in whilst noticing Olivier Giroud behind him. The Ox then managed to back-heel the ball round the defender to Giroud and got on the end of a 1-2 to then dribble just into the box and placed the ball into the bottom corner.
So far through his career at Arsenal Oxlade-Chamberlain has been a wide man because of his speed, thus using his attack minded style of play, the Ox was always looking for a way forward and using his channels to develop play. Through his passing out of a total of 83, 70 were successful providing an 84% pass completion, contribution to his loss of possession of only 20 times and for a player so involved this illustrates how well Alex fits into the Arsenal possession style of play.
Out of these passes, only 14% were played backwards, the rest to either wings or forward, emphasising he is on the same wave length as the rest of the midfield as Santi Cazorla possessed similar passing figures. As for passing zones, Alex falls unfortunately short of a high success rate within the Attacking zone (76%), so although he is looking to generate more goals through forward play, it may be suggested his timing of a couple passes could be improved upon as there were a few moments in the game where he held onto the ball to long, or forced play to quickly however finding the perfect balance between the two should only be a matter of time when playing with the likes of Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil.
Not failing to disappoint in his new position Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can only hope for an injury free conclusion to the season. With Walcott out, surely Oxlade-Chamberlain should find his name amongst the starting XI. Being so diverse with his abilities, including strength and physicality, as well as lightening speed combined with goal-scoring and squad inspiring performances as such, Arsenal’s hopes of finishing top look to be improving. Over the next couple of weeks, all of this will be tested as the Gunners find themselves having a difficult run of fixtures.