Comment and Analysis @nicholaspwright
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's impending departure highlights Arsenal issues
Last Updated: 30/08/17 9:54am
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's impending departure highlights Arsenal's poor planning and chaotic approach to the transfer market under Arsene Wenger, writes Nick Wright.
Taken in isolation, Arsenal's decision to sell Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a justifiable one. The 24-year-old has spent six seasons at the Emirates Stadium without nailing down a place or even a position, and the reported £35m fee is surely too good to turn down for a squad player entering the final year of his contract.
Chelsea agree fee for Ox
Chelsea have agreed a fee with Arsenal for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sky Sports News understands.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is an exciting talent with outstanding pace, power and dribbling ability, but he has not come close to realising his potential at Arsenal. Instead, he has been dogged by injuries and inconsistency. In 196 appearances in all competitions - an average of just 32 per season - he has only contributed 20 goals and 26 assists.
For a player who arrived at Arsenal as one of those most promising English players of his generation, the numbers are more than a little underwhelming. And while his lack of progress raises questions of Arsene Wenger's coaching, Oxlade-Chamberlain must take a share of the responsibility himself. Too many chances have passed him by. Memorable performances have been too few and far between.
What's more difficult for Arsenal to justify, however, is the manner in which they have allowed the situation to play out. It is almost two months since sources close to the player told Sky Sports News that the chances of him signing a new contract were virtually nil, so why wait until the final days of the transfer window to sanction his departure?
Oxlade-Chamberlain has been clear about his intentions all summer, but Arsenal have now left themselves facing another frantic rush to bring in a replacement. The former Southampton youngster is by no means a key player like Alexis Sanchez or Mesut Ozil, but his ability to cover so many positions is difficult to find - especially in such a short timeframe.
It looks like poor planning on Arsenal's part and it is an embarrassing episode for Wenger, who has repeatedly stated his desire to keep hold of Oxlade-Chamberlain over the last few months. The Frenchman said losing him would do "big damage" to the club back in April, and he spoke in even stronger terms as recently as last week.
"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," he said. "He is one of the players this team has to be built around in the future. I want him to commit to the club and be one of the carriers of the values of our team."
If Wenger is as enamoured as he says, it is difficult to understand why efforts weren't made to tie Oxlade-Chamberlain to a new deal long before this summer. Using him as an impact substitute and deploying him at wing-back was hardly the best way to convince him he was central to his long-term plans, and Oxlade-Chamberlain has done little to suggest he deserves that status anyway.
Sky sources confirmed he had turned down Arsenal's latest contract offer shortly after Wenger's most recent comments, so it was no great surprise that the decision to start him against Liverpool backfired. Oxlade-Chamberlain's inclusion at right wing-back forced Hector Bellerin to play out of position, while new signing Sead Kolasinac inexplicably kicked his heels on the bench.
It became all the more baffling when news emerged that Arsenal had agreed a fee with Chelsea less than 24 hours later. Oxlade-Chamberlain's indifferent display at Anfield, when he looked like he would rather be anywhere else, is likely to be his last in an Arsenal shirt.
This is not the first time Wenger has lost a player against his will, of course, but Oxlade-Chamberlain is a different case. He is not a key figure who has outgrown the club like Ashley Cole, Cesc Fabregas or Robin van Persie, rather a squad player who no longer believes Arsenal is the best place for his development - or that Wenger is the right man to oversee it.
His impending exit sets a dangerous precedent. Much has been made of the contracts set to expire next summer, with Sanchez and Ozil seemingly certain not to stay at the club beyond 2018, but there are more to follow in the year after that. Among the nine first-team players whose deals expire in 2019 are Aaron Ramsey, Danny Welbeck and Petr Cech.
Will Arsenal be able to convince them to stay? Or will Oxlade-Chamberlain's decision to turn his back on the club cause other members of the dressing room to question their futures? With the Sanchez saga also rumbling on, it's looking like a messy end to another chaotic transfer window for Arsenal. Worryingly, there could be more of the same to come.
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