Oxlade-Chamberlain back in the frame

Posted by John Cross

Alex Oxlade-ChamberlainGettyImagesAlex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been likened to Steven Gerrard.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will surely make his first start since August against Coventry in the FA Cup on Friday night.

It has been a season of injury frustration for the Arsenal midfielder, who damaged knee ligaments in the opening day defeat against Aston Villa. Since then, the Ox has made two substitute appearances -- against Villa and then Fulham on Saturday.

The 20-year-old has also made a couple of appearances for Arsenal's under-21s, most recently in the defeat to Liverpool on Monday. Looking on was Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who recently compared him to Steven Gerrard and claimed that, like the England captain, his youngster is destined to be a central midfielder.

No pressure there, then. Oxlade-Chamberlain only has to emulate one of England's best midfielders to live up to Wenger's billing. But that is the story of his career. Rather like Theo Walcott, early promise, achievements and breakthroughs bring high expectations.

I don't care what anyone says, Walcott has fulfilled his early potential -- with more to follow. He has shone for club and country, his pace is a threat and his stats are impressive.

Similarly, Oxlade-Chamberlain has been built up into being a world-beater. Rather like Walcott, the Ox went to a major tournament with England when a mere teenager -- having made a huge impression in his first season, he forced his way into England's Euro 2012 squad and now has his sights set on the World Cup.

Given that he has already scored in the Maracana, Oxlade-Chamberlain will be pushing for a place in Brazil; don't worry about that. And if he can recover his form and fitness quickly enough, then I'm convinced he will make the plane as part of Roy Hodgson's squad.

Oxlade-Chamberlain offers versatility, can play wide, central and has pace as well as the ability to dribble past opponents, provide crosses and get forward to score goals.

As Arsenal's season heats up with the title race, FA Cup and Champions League, there will be plenty of opportunities despite the competition for places. The club have so many midfielders yet, with Walcott out injured, there are not so many wide options. Serge Gnabry is making good progress. Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski can both play wide, but both would prefer to be central.

That's why Oxlade-Chamberlain’s return could come at the perfect time. Just watch him take off now if Arsenal manage an FA Cup run, while he will begin to get starts in the Premier League just as soon as he gets his sharpness back.

That has to be great news for England. They don't have so many wide options with Walcott out. Andros Townsend has suffered a dip because of injuries and form after his heroics helping England to qualify. And it's opened the door for others: James Milner could be seen as a wide player, Raheem Sterling must be a strong shout after his fine form for Liverpool, and even Wilfried Zaha wants to go out on loan because he reckons he has an outside chance.

That all points to Oxlade-Chamberlain getting the nod even after missing such a huge chunk of the season. It's an area where England do not have great depth, and the Arsenal man has the ambition, has already been to a tournament and has got enough time on his side to get back into the frame.

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