Arsenal 7 Blackburn 1: Wenger hails Oxlade-Chamberlain display
Arsene Wenger heaps praise on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after Arsenal romp to victory over Blackburn Rovers on Saturday
Arsene Wenger admitted his delight at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s speedy development into an Arsenal first-team regular after watching his side thrash 10-man Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
The 18-year-old forward scored twice as the Gunners romped to their first Premier League win of 2012, adding to Robin van Persie’s hat-trick, Mikel Arteta’s long-range strike and a late effort by substitute Thierry Henry.
Morten Gamst Pedersen had equalised for Steve Kean’s visitors with a superb free-kick but Rovers were level for less than 10 minutes before Van Persie and Oxlade-Chamberlain restored Arsenal’s lead – and Gael Givet was given his marching orders for a two-footed lunge on Van Persie just before the break.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was a threat throughout Saturday’s clash at The Emirates, has been in sparkling form for the Londoners after starting six of Arsenal’s seven games since the turn of the year.
And Wenger admits he is thrilled with the Southampton youth product’s displays and would not be surprised to see the teenager included in Fabio Capello’s England squad for this summer’s European Championship.
“In a very short period of time he has become an important player who can make a difference,” said Wenger. “I rested him in the last 20 minutes at Bolton, so he was not pushed to his limits. The medical staff said there was no risk he could damage his knee, so that is why I decided to play him [against Blackburn].
“He was not ready earlier in the season. He has made a big step in the last months. He produces team play, he is not only going forwards, he is contributing to the defending and has improved very quickly. He is a fighter as well, with personality. He is much more mature now and I would not be surprised if he got an England call-up.”
Saturday’s resounding victory hoists Arsenal up to fifth place and two points behind Chelsea in fourth, who host Manchester United on Sunday.
And Wenger, whose side travel to Sunderland next weekend, admits a positive result was vital for his side after having picked up just a point in the league since New Year’s Eve.
“It was important to the confidence of the side that we win a game and get three points but the result in itself will not make us win at Sunderland,” said Wenger.
“That will make us win there with the confidence we got today is to continue to play the way we did today. Every game is a new challenge and Sunderland are in a good spell as well. We have to be ready for that.”