I don’t know if you noticed it or not but Wenger loves Ox. Loves him so much that he’s penned a love letter to Ox which goes like this:
“In all the conversations that I have had, I say that I want him to stay and be one of the big players of the future of this club,” Wenger said. “He is one of the players this team has to be built around in the future. Personally, I want him to commit to the club and be one of the carriers of the values of our team.
“I want to keep my best players. I only have one target – to keep everybody on board. I think we invested a lot of time, confidence and money on players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who we bought at a young age. For me, they have a responsibility for the future of this club because Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be one of the big English players in the coming years. I, personally, am highly determined to keep him here at the club and I hope he will commit.”
Wenger’s going to build the team around Ox. Who is currently playing at right wing back.
Ox was bought from Southampton for £13m in August of 2011. In these six years since, Ox has played 197 times for Arsenal but only 10,399 minutes or the equivalent of 115.5 games. Ox has scored just 20 goals but he does have 32 assists (which includes times he won a penalty and Arsenal scored) which isn’t bad when you consider that he has basically only played 3 full seasons. That’s a goal or assist every 200 minutes.
Oxlade-Chamberlain does have some unique abilities which he has greatly developed over time. His dribbling is the best on the team and he’s averaging 7.5 successful dribbles per game so far this season. A lot of fans don’t like Ox but I understand why Chelsea are after him: his dribbling puts Ox firmly in the Eden Hazard category where he can win you games with his trickery on the ball.
It makes sense to build a team around a Hazard-type player as well. Chelsea have won their last two titles because of Eden Hazard: when he’s healthy, Chelsea’s offense is simply devastating.
However, Ox is not quite at the level of Hazard. Hazard has played 249 times for Chelsea, 19,351 minutes, or the equivalent of 215 full games. Hazard has also scored 72 goals and added 62 assists (includes fantasy assists). That’s a goal or assist every 144 minutes. Hazard moved to Chelsea the summer after Arsenal signed Ox and Hazard is 2.5 years older than Ox.
What Chelsea may see in Ox is a player with the ability to play right now as a back up to Hazard and, if he should fulfil his potential, take over as the creative dribbler when Hazard is moved to China for a trillion dollars. But those are big ifs.
I don’t like talking about other fans but I have to here: there is a lot of negative fan sentiment around Ox. There was a clickbait article by Matt Law (I don’t like to the Telegraph, Sun, Mirror, Star, Metro, or Daily Mail) published yesterday that said Arsenal have offered Ox £180k a week in salary. This had the desired effect and fan outrage was peaked on Twitter and other venues.
I’ve seen him play in person and I have to agree with Wenger, I think he’s a great talent. I don’t know if he’s at the level where you build a team around him but I can see him possibly getting to that level, if he can stay healthy.
But whatever the salary truth (which probably includes a signing bonus, which thus allows the clickbaiters to publish some OUTRAGEOUS figure) Wenger is going hard for the Ox. In fact, Wenger has been a gambler for many years and he seems to have gone all in this season on Ox, Alexis, and Özil. If it pays off and Arsenal keep all three players it will be the most audacious bit of management in Arsenal history.
But as you know, statistically, the house has a huge advantage and the smartest bet is not to place bets. I worry that this season could be worse, more distracted than last, with players making deals with other clubs throughout the year and Wenger taking bigger and bigger gambles until it all comes down to a busted flush in May.