Could Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain be secret weapon for Capello?

In Arsenal’s current campaign, there has been little room for more than one headline act and that act has unquestionably been Robin van Persie – even club legend Thierry Henry is part of the Dutchman’s supporting cast. In the recent 7-1 mauling of Blackburn however, the club’s captain was joined on stage by the club’s next big thing.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s arrival from Southampton very much mirrored that of teammate Theo Walcott’s back in 2006, and hindering both, is the pressure that accompanies the concept of potential. From the evidence of the former’s 251 minutes of Premier League football, it seems that expectation may be entirely defensible. The similarities are clear and with the European Championships in clear-sight, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s emergence could see those resemblances expand even further. The 18-year-old’s career may be blossoming at the perfect time, so naturally there is now an idea developing as to whether England manager Fabio Capello could employ him as his secret weapon come June.

Following the chagrin that surrounded England’s South African World Cup, Capello made a declaration that he would re-build his international squad, with the key concept being to pepper it with youth. In fairness to the Italian he has experimented in attempts to invigorate that previous stagnation. Part of Sven Goran-Eriksson’s final remit as England manager back in 2006, included handing Walcott a shock international call-up for a major tournament but Walcott failed to vacate the substitutes bench in Germany. Commentators saw his inclusion as strange, since both first choice strikers – Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen – were struggling for fitness, suggesting a more established player should have filled that last spot. It will never be known how detrimental that experience was for Walcott’s career, so Arsene Wenger for one, will be mindful of such repetition regarding another of his starlets.

With Rooney initially suspended, Capello must now be ultra-calculated in his final selection choices and this could be to the disadvantage of Oxlade-Chamberlain. It should be noted however that in the 2010 World Cup, Germany proved what a youthful aesthetic can achieve; they had an abundance of pace and bustled with innovation in achieving third-placed status.

Now Wenger has entrusted Oxlade-Chamberlain with more first-team responsibility, the debate will grow as the domestic season continues. Using his last performance as a barometer, the case to take the fledgling winger to his first senior tournament will only intensify. His composure very much defies his age and while criticism is often directed at Walcott for sometimes lacking an ‘astute footballing brain’, there appears no such deficiency when discussing Oxlade-Chamberlain.

While the most unwanted racial furore continues to surround the England camp, buried somewhere underneath is the matter of Capello assembling a squad that can make serious in-roads towards major honours. In one respect the Italian has got little to lose, as post-tournament he will stand down regardless. If Oxlade-Chamberlain continues to develop at this remarkable pace, the Portsmouth-born starlet could be a secret weapon for Capello’s England swansong.

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