Arsenal’s Oxlade-Chamberlain can be England’s key man at Euro 2012
Sharethematch.com takes a look at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's potential impact with England at the Euro 2012
The third-choice goalkeeper aside, Roy Hodgson’s only attempt to inject some life into England’s average squad of veterans and average youngsters was to pick the uncapped Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Arsenal teenager must not be allowed to warm the benches in Poland and Ukraine.
Plenty point to Wayne Rooney as England’s catalyst for dynamism in a stodgy team that lacks any sort of verve but in truth he has not performed at a major tournament since Euro 2004.
Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will drop deep and tick things over, as will Gareth Barry, but they are the wrong side of 30 and neither can seize control of a game as they once could.
Stewart Downing, Ashley Young and Theo Walcott are all triers rather than flyers but in Oxlade-Chamberlain, England have a player who can light up Euro 2012.
Hodgson made a mistake when saying he was impressed with the way the midfielder handled Massimo Ambrosini and Andrea Pirlo when Arsenal played AC Milan – Ambrosini didn’t play at The Emirates and Pirlo has played for Juventus since last summer – but he was making a valid point.
He was intimating that Oxlade-Chamberlain is not in the same mould as Walcott – a dasher who must keep his width and arc his way round defences and hurdle tackles – or Lennon, another pacey winger.
The 18-year-old has the upper body strength and the self-belief to live with the rough and tumble of one of the best midfields in Europe and does not need to be treated as a luxury.
Previous England managers have been unable to resist holding pacey wingers back for 20-minute cameos but as was the case with Lennon at the 2006 World Cup, letting these greyhounds off the leash late on does not always provide results – and Oxlade-Chamberlain is no mere whippet.
In the same way Rooney once did, Oxlade-Chamberlain doesn’t just go round defenders, he goes through them, picking up momentum by crashing off opponents like a pinball in full tilt.
And you need look only as far as the penalty he won for Arsenal’s third against Milan to see how effective that can be.
A solid, if too regimented, England team can be brought to life by the Oxlade-Chamberlain at the Euros – now is not the time for cotton wool.