If you ask the majority of people, Arsenal are a club on the up. The Gunners have won the FA Cup in successive years, and finished in the top four once again. Now what Arsenal fans want is for the team to challenge for, and ideally win, the Premier League title. They’ve brought in a world class goalkeeper in Petr Cech and, according to director Lord Harris, they’ve got plenty of money to spend if they find those one or two extra players.
Arsene Wenger has a squad full of top players, like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, and Aaron Ramsey. He’s got a complete squad with strength in depth. With all that strength, there are some players that are almost unquantifiable in the teams equation, the X-factors. Arsenal have plenty of match winners, but two X-factors that could be vital in the race for the Premier League are English wingers Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott. These two uber-talented Englishman could make the difference that the Gunners need to win the Premier League for the first time in over a decade.
These two players have plenty of similarities. Both came from the Southampton youth academy before being purchased by Arsenal, both play as wingers, even if they have different styles, and both have struggled with injuries. Walcott has suffered through his torn ACL over the last two years, and, while he had a great first half of the season, the Ox missed much of the latter half of the campaign through a nagging hamstring injury. They also have some holes in their game. Walcott’s overall game is not what everyone would like it to be and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s final product isn’t what everyone would like it to be. They both have serious quality and can make huge differences to the team. These inconsistencies and injury problems make them tough to quantify.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a fantastic first half of the season. He was putting in top performance after top performance, even if he wasn’t getting as many goals and assists as some would like. His ability to beat his man with a dribble is incredible, he finished the season with the second most take ons per 90 minutes in the Premier League. While he couldn’t do it consistency he showed flashes of what his final product can be with his goals against Monaco and Anderlecht along with his assists vs West Ham and Manchester United. But then he missed most of the run in due to injuries. After such a promising first half of the season, the injury woes stopped him yet again.
Theo Walcott is a player that can be anything from invisible to a dynamo that makes defenders wet their pants. He doesn’t always make the biggest impact, but when he does make an impact, everyone knows about it. He is a terror for defenders to play against because of his pace and ability to make the runs in behind the defence. He’s scored a goal every 150 minutes over the last three seasons, despite mainly being deployed on the wing. He has had his injury problems though. He hasn’t been able to stay on the pitch enough to prove his worth to everyone, which is one of the reasons he divides opinion. If he can stay on the pitch, he can make a big difference for Arsene Wenger.
This could be a big season for Arsenal. Chelsea are favorites, but Arsenal should be in the mix to win the title this season. World class players can make the difference in a title race, but what more often is the difference, is the unknowns producing. It’s about the squad players coming through when they need to. The world class players will influence the team, but the other players, the English X-factors, can make the difference. If Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott can come through when called upon and play to the level we know they can get to, it might just be enough to push the Gunners over the line at the end of the season.