Club Focus – Arsenal – Will Wenger neglect the case for the defence to sign Oxlade-Chamberlain?

After returning to form with a comprehensive victory over West Ham United in the league, Arsenal have the chance to avenge one of their disappointing cup results when they face Leeds United on Wednesday. With games coming thick and fast for the men in red, Arsene Wenger is highly likely to shuffle his pack again for tonight’s FA Cup third round replay.

Thomas Vermaelen still appears no nearer a return, as he prepares to undergo surgery to resolve his long-running Achilles problem, and coupling this with Sebastien Squillaci’s absence means that, despite the manager’s desire, rotation appears unlikely in the centre of defence. He currently only has Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny available, appearing to indicate the necessity for a January reinforcement.

Contrast this situation with the striking options, where Saturday’s man of the match and current form player Robin van Persie is likely to be rested and replaced by the early season’s standout performer Marouane Chamakh. The Moroccan rendered himself indispensable in van Persie’s absence at the beginning of the campaign, but his last Premier League start came against Wigan Athletic just under a month ago. This week he moved to dismiss speculation that he has fallen out of favour with the manager, asserting: “As the coach said, I played a lot earlier this season so I was a little exhausted. It’s logical, I’m not worried.” Having lost his place to the flying Dutchman, Chamakh will have to convince the manager all over again that he warrants selection as first choice, but remains pragmatic about the situation: “It allowed me to have a short break. Now I feel fine and I hope to be back in the team soon.”

The Gunners’ other form player Theo Walcott was also on the scoresheet against West Ham, and Arsenal are linked with a move for a youngster dubbed the ‘next Theo Walcott.’ Playing for Southampton and consistently linked with a January move to Arsenal, it is easy to see why Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has received the moniker, and in fact, the deeper the investigation, the more similar they appear.

Oxlade-Chamberlain made his professional debut for Southampton at the age of 16 and is the second youngest appearance maker for the club behind Theo Walcott and he currently 17, the same age at which Walcott made his January transfer to the Gunners. Should he make a January move, the deal would be a similarly staged deal of £5m up front with future instalments based on appearances. This similarity between the situations is what appears to be giving Arsenal the edge in the race for his signature, as strong relations with the Saints prove crucial.

However, for all of the similarities, the younger is regarded as the hotter prospect, with his coach and father, former England international Mark Chamberlain, remarking: “I’ve worked with both. As an all-round technical player Alex has more to offer.” Whilst Arsenal need an experienced defender, there is precedent for Wenger to splash out on a talented youngster in January as Oxlade-Chamberlain appears set to literally be the ‘next Theo Walcott.’

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