Arsenal fans have been crying out for their owners and boss Arsene Wenger to make a marquee signing and part with the cash that was wadded so tightly in their wallets – someone who will make the footballing world stand up and take notice as they hope to bring seven trophy-less seasons to an end. Today, they’ve been given an answer. Electrifying Ivory Coast international Gervinho has been joined by Southampton’s 17-year-old winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for a fee that has blown Saints’ £12.5million sale of Theo Walcott “out of the water”, but is this the big money signing they had been hoping for? Here are ten things you need to know about Chamberlain and perhaps an indication that the Gunners need to keep spending.
1) In his first full professional season on the South Coast, Chamberlain quickly leapt above want-away winger Jason Puncheon in the pecking order to cement a position in Southampton’s first team, and he hasn’t taken long to taste success. Ten goals and nine assists helped Saints secure promotion to the Championship after two seasons in the third tier of English football.
2) Chamberlain’s first game for the club came at the tail end of the 2009/10 campaign, as he was used as a second half substitute during Southampton’s 5-0 win over Huddersfield. This made him the second youngest player to ever put on a Southampton shirt at 16 years and 199 days. Only new Arsenal team-mate and former Saints wonderkid Theo Walcott has beaten his record.
3) Saints academy product Chamberlain was selected in the PFA League One team of the year for his performances, along with four other Southampton players, as the club won an impressive 13 games out of the last 15 to secure automatic promotion.
4) Much like Walcott, who joined Arsenal after making his mark in his first full season with the South Coast club, his electrifying pace was a constant worry for opposing full backs. Much like Walcott, he scored a brilliant lob to attract further interest. This chip was one of two goals against Dagenham & Redbridge. Notice any similarities?
5) Perhaps a bit less like Theo at the same age, he’s proven to have an end product on a number of occasions. There is still a lot to prove for Chamberlain, but he was finding a striker or finding the back of the net on quite a consistent basis and proved to be a mainstay in the side’s starting line up before a two-month injury lay-off in the run in. The pick of his ten strikes sealed the club’s promotion party as his curling effort capped off a 3-1 win over struggling Walsall. Chamberlain’s stocky in build but light-footed, skilful and can operate on either wing.
For Arsenal fans that are hoping for a ready-made superstar, Chamberlain has yet to test his abilities in the Championship, let alone the Premier League
6) Even though he was a regular in Southampton’s starting line up before injury, they certainly coped without him. The teenage starlet was ruled out for nine games as Southampton continued their relentless promotion charge, and picked up 24 points in the process. Still recovering from a knock in pre-season this time round, Chamberlain wasn’t included in the squad that comprehensively defeated Leeds United in this weekend’s Championship opener. Even if Chamberlain had stayed, he wasn’t guaranteed a first team place every week and Southampton seem to have the depth and quality to cover for him in this division. Former De Graafschap winger Steve De Ridder has been brought in and the Saints’ fans concerns will certainly be eased with the club’s extremely strong financial position. And another 12-15 million pounds to bolster the squad is certainly a handy bonus.
7) For Arsenal fans that are hoping for a ready-made superstar, Chamberlain has yet to test his abilities in the Championship, let alone the Premier League, and there is a distinct possibility that he will have to settle for reserve team football, loan spells and League Cup cameos for a few years before he is seriously knocking on the door of Arsenal’s first team. Yes he has undoubted talent, but so did Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale at that age, and their development was stalled as they didn’t get much of a look in until they were in their 20’s. Staying with Nigel Adkins’ Southampton side for another year could have given him a fantastic platform to progress as a player and show what he can do in a very tough division. It could prove to be a masterstroke, but the likelihood is that he won’t be competing with the likes of Andrei Arshavin and Samir Nasri for a couple of seasons yet.
8) If there is reason to hope that he will be an England player in years to come, Trevor Brooking noted him down as a future senior international. He also earned a cap at Under-21 level under the guidance of Stuart Pearce and his father Mark is a former England player himself. If it runs in the family, then there certainly is a chance that the Gunners may have a bit of a gem on their hands.
9) All the talk of an England future may have Arsenal fans excited for sure, but for the money spent on Chamberlain, the Gunners could have brought Chris Samba or Gary Cahill – two powerful centre backs who would make an instant impact in a team that is in desperate need of silverware. Pundits and former players alike have reiterated Arsenal’s need for a dominating centre back or a midfield powerhouse, but they will have to wait again to see if Arsene Wenger brings in proven Premier League or Champions League quality to bolster the ranks.
10) Chamberlain’s YET ANOTHER talented youngster in a very large Arsenal squad. He isn’t guaranteed to make an impact in the first team and he will have the likes of Carlos Vela, Emmanuel Frimpong, Henri Lansbury, Craig Eastmond and Ryo Miyaichi to compete with before a first team place beckons. It would be brilliant to see Chamberlain become a star and take the Premier League by storm, but there it seems there is a long road ahead. Having said that, a certain 17-year-old called Theo Walcott was a surprise inclusion in the 2006 World Cup squad, after barely making a senior appearance for Arsenal, so stranger things have happened. Right?
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