Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is Arsenal’s most used substitute in the Premier League this season.
Just six of his 17 appearances have been starts – only West Bromwich Albion striker Rickie Lambert has been used as a substitute more often.
But Arsene Wenger has insisted that the 22-year-old’s best position is not on the bench, but instead on the right of a central midfield three.
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“He has the attributes to play in central midfield, he has that important quality — a little surge to get out of pressure,” Goal.com quotes Wenger as saying.
“One of the things to get out of pressure is to have a little dribble to get away from the guy who closes you down and nobody more than Chamberlain has that.
“That is why he could be suited for the modern game to play in there because he has that capacity to get out of the pressure. He is really suited to be right-sided, box to box in a 4-3-3, he really fits in there.”
That’s pretty specific from the Gunners boss, living up to his nickname of Le Professeur.
But it is also perhaps an inadvertent admission that Oxlade-Chamberlain does not fit into his tactics, because he has never employed a genuine 4-3-3 formation, certainly not while managing Arsenal at least.
He has previously used 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1, and has been firmly committed to 4-2-3-1 in recent seasons.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has been fitted into this system on either wing, but to no great effect. He failed to score or assist in the league throughout the whole of 2015.
The England international’s progress is stuttering. He needs regular football and he needs to be playing in his best position, right of a central-midfield three, remember.
The answer may be a move away from the Emirates Stadium, and Chelsea, who were linked with an strong interest in him by The Sun last week, could be a perfect fit.
Interim boss Guus Hiddink is slowing introducing the 4-3-3 formation, which is engrained in the Dutch football psyche, to the post-Jose Mourinho era at Stamford Bridge.
Hiddink used the system in his first spell in caretaker charge of the Blues – encouraging the midfielders either side of his anchor man to drive forward with the ball.
Chelsea had the likes Michael Ballack and Michael Essien to fulfil that role in 2009. Their current squad seems devoid of the same sort of aggressive ball-carrier.
Chamberlain would be an excellent foil to the midfield options currently available to Hiddink, who would be wise to make a bold cross-London swoop for the serial sub.
— CaughtOffside (@caughtoffside) January 13, 2016
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