Connect in the back of the net

Taken from The Guardian

With the signing of Lukas Podolski, the Gunners have an experienced, hungry centre forward who’s no stranger to fast paced and aggressive link up play. Many would argue that with the signing of the German international, the #10 role or “second striker” position is locked down. Perhaps that’s not the case.

Every year, Arsenal fans cry out for signings in the weakest areas of the team, often ignoring what players they already have. Even before skipper Robin van Persie’s surprise announcement, there was an evident dearth of on form strikers capable of making a difference in attack. Arsenal currently have 5 strikers on their roster, which leaves plenty of depth and security should injury strike. 

The Gunners have many players capable of filling this role, such as Tomas Rosicky, Jack WIlshere, Aaron Ramsey and senior squad fringe players such as Benik Afobe. One of the most potent attacking threats, however, often goes overlooked: a certain Alexander Oxlade-Chamberlain formerly of Southampton.

Understandably, “the Ox” isn’t the first name to come to mind for this position, but upon further analysis, it seems to suit him quite well. Typically, three things required of a centre forward are strength, dribbling and passing skills. As the #10 isn’t the main goal threat in conventional formations, their goal scoring output plays second fiddle in importance to their responsibility for creativity. 

Despite being afforded limited playing time, Oxlade Chamberlain shows all the signs of eventually maturing to become a centre forward. Arguably, his best ever performance in an Arsenal shirt was a result of him playing centrally in an attacking minded line-up against AC Milan in the second leg of the Champion’s League. 

Despite the amount of pressure involved, the Ox played a cool, effective game down the middle bagging himself an assist in the process of a 3-0 win over La Rossoneri. While he lacks the defensive capabilities of a deep lying playmaker, he does have vision and decent finishing for someone who is still considered an unfinished product. 

In the Premier League, Oxlade Chamberlain completed 205 out of 243 total passes for a completing rate of 84.4%. These kinds of stats are impressive considering his lack of experience, and position. Despite being played on the wing, Oxlade Chamberlain has a tendency to drift into a more central role during build up play, and has a knack for playing a reverse pass against offside traps.

His stats don’t necessarily paint the complete picture; the Ox rarely got to play a full game, often getting subbed off at the 60th or 70th minute. 

Some of his most promising stats are his average shots per game (1.1), average successful pass % per game (82.3), made an average of 0.7 key passes playing on the wing, and his most interesting?  Only 9 turnovers the entire year. 

What this works out to in the future is a player who can dribble opponents, expose the defence, and make the cutting pass to set up a chance on goal. Arsenal have a wonderkid on their hands.

Written by Anders Marshall
Follow me on Twitter @MarshallArsenal

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