After six years, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is set to say his goodbyes to Arsenal in the next few days as the 2017 summer transfer window draws to a close, but who is this move good for, if anyone?
It is remarkable to think that, given he had two years of professional football at then-League One Southampton behind him before signing for the Gunners, that Oxlade-Chamberlain is still only 24 years of age.
Although he will understandably be a bit miffed that Arsene Wenger’s side will be in Europe’s second-tier competition for the first time in 20 years and therefore wants to be back in the Champions League, but at what potential cost for a player, it is fair to say, still in development?
It would appear that Oxlade-Chamberlain now has two options at his disposal after Manchester City’s interest looks to have faded into oblivion, leaving Arsenal’s London rivals Chelsea, and Liverpool.
What is in doubt though, whichever club he chooses, is who is supposed to benefit from ‘The Ox’ signing on the dotted line.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte changed the face of English football last season when his 3-4-3 system blew away everyone before it and, as the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, with seemingly every manager in the Premier League now adopting the formation.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s current manager, Wenger is no exception, and he has used the original winger as his right wing-back to little success, which most recently culminated in a 4-0 humiliation at Liverpool and the latest calls for the Frenchman’s head.
Regardless, that has not deterred Conte who presumably sees Oxlade-Chamberlain as competition for Victor Moses, but with Moses adapting so surprisingly well to the role compared to his potential rival, will the new man get the football he requires?
It will be even less likely if instead he is considered in the wing-forward/number ten role where Willian, Pedro and Eden Hazard provide a stern enough battle as it is.
Alternatively, Anfield is Oxlade-Chamberlain’s destination. It will mean he will be back in his favoured winger role, but again the amount of options at Liverpool’s disposal will end up in Oxlade-Chamberlain on the fringes, with Moh Salah and Sadio Mane two of the first names on the Reds’ team sheet and Adam Lallana in first reserve.
Granted, none of this may matter to Oxlade-Chamberlain if he gets the Champions League football he so desperately craves in a rotational fashion, however he also has to consider that this is a World Cup year and, even though the Three Lions do not have a wealth of options available, they are still unlikely to take a squad player to Russia next summer.
Maybe he would be better off staying at Arsenal, ironically maybe the only ‘winners’ here, given they will get a reasonable fee for a man out of contract at the end of the season, but that contract stand-off looks to have burned all of his bridges at the Emirates.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has spent his summer trying to get out of a club in crisis, but in doing so he has created one of his own.
Mesut Ozil’s Arsenal arrival in the summer of 2013 created shock waves for fans in north London who felt the £42.5 million acquisition from Real Madrid was a sign of Arsene Wenger finally being a little less tight with the club’s money.
Since then Ozil has been something of a Marmite footballer with some thinking he has been the best thing since slice bread, and the rest being of the opinion that his Premier League future could be toast in the not too distant future.
One major criticism of him is the claim that he goes ‘missing’ in big matches, despite the fact that two of his four league goals last season came in the north London derby with Tottenham and in the home clash against Liverpool as well as two of his seven assists in all club competitions during the 2014-15 campaign coming in the FA Cup Semi-Final win over Reading.
Ozil of course was also superb in Sunday’s 3-0 win over rivals Manchester United, creating one goal and scoring another as the Gunners romped to victory at the Emirates stadium.
David Silva of Manchester City is considered the best number ten by the majority of fans and pundits, and with good reason too as he topped most of the important stats for the required position last season against fellow number tens.
The Spaniard registered seven assists, more than Ozil (five), Phillippe Coutinho (also five) and Juan Mata (four). Oscar contributed more however with eight as Chelsea won the Premier League for the first time in five years.
Silva did create more chances, scored more goals and made more key passes than all of the above though. Ozil created 23 less chances (70) than Silva (93), scored four goals compared to Silva’s 12 and made 21 less key passes (65 to Silva’s 86).
However, Ozil played just 22/38 games whereas Silva featured in ten more and therefore was on a football pitch 781 minutes more than his German compatriot.
Stat off: Ozil vs Silva
If you do the maths, on average, if Ozil played those 781 minutes, his numbers would be higher than Silva’s.
He would have seven assists, level with Silva, 92 key passes, higher than Silva’s 86 and he would have created 99 chances, six more than the ex-Valencia man.
Silva would still top Ozil in the goals stakes. Arsenal’s number 11 would only score one more goal.
It is a similar story if you take his totals from the early stage of the 2015-16 season.
Out of Ozil, Silva, Mata, Coutinho and Oscar, Mata has featured the most with eight matches, having played for 664 minutes.
Mata’s stats for assists, key passes, chances created and goals are three, 13, 16 and three respectively, and he is only the best amongst his fellow centre attacking midfielders at scoring goals – and that is without the average score coming into effect.
City’s Silva is the most efficient assister with six. Ozil has four, Coutinho has two and Oscar does not have any.
Ozil is numero uno (or nummer Eins) in terms of key passes (27) and chances created (31), compared to Silva (ten and 16), Mata (13 and 16), Coutinho (five and seven) and Oscar (three and three).
Once you calculate all five players to have played as much as Mata, the results are as follows:
Assist king is still Silva with ten, next is Ozil with five, Mata and Coutinho are level on three and Oscar is still stuck on zero (although, in fairness, he probably would have registered at least one if he played another six times).
Again, Ozil is the most creative in terms of key passes and chances created with Silva, Mata, Oscar and Coutinho behind him in that order for both stats.
Mata remains the top scorer too, closely followed by Oscar, Silva, Coutinho and finally Ozil.
Number tens are often judged on their assist totals, and that makes sense, but Ozil is let down in this tally, not for his lack of creating ability (as his key passes and chances created amount prove), but because of the strikers who are supposed to finish off his good work.
At Real Madrid Ozil played behind one of the best forwards and players in the world right now, and that the sport has ever seen, in Cristiano Ronaldo and, failing that, Karim Benzema, a very good striker in most people’s eyes.
During this time in the Spanish capital Ozil racked up 47 assists in three and a bit seasons, whereas his numbers have gone down since he has started playing with a good, but wasteful, pair of attackers in Oliver Giroud and Theo Walcott. If those two could finish as well as Ronaldo, then Ozil would get a lot more assists.
This works in a similar vein to Silva who is fortunate enough to be in the same side as one of, probably the best, centre forward in the Premier League – Sergio Aguero.
If Aguero was up front for Arsenal, Ozil would have a better option in front of him to score the chances he creates, therefore increasing the amount of assists he gets. The point is made often that for this reason Ronaldo makes Ozil look better than he is, potentially valid point, but on the flip-side, surely that means Giroud and/or Walcott could or do make him look worse than many seem to think he is?
Not that it was needed, but that must give Arsenal fans even more reason to want Wenger to splash out on a world class centre forward, to not just get more goals for the FA Cup holders, but to get Ozil the credit he deserves as truly the Premier League’s best number 10 right now.
The 2015-16 Premier League season is slowly dawning upon us and, soon enough, so will the dreaded “sack race”. Here are five managers that will need a good start this season to prevent themselves being dragged into the mire.
1) Steve McClaren – Newcastle United
Newcastle’s murky issues off-the-pitch seem to finally look like they are coming to an end. Alan Pardew resigning as manager to take over at Crystal Palace in December 2014 was the beginning of the end of the “Cockney Mafia” and now owner Mike Ashley is set to step down to much fanfare from the Newcastle faithful.
New manager McClaren hopefully signifies a new dawn at St.James’ Park, however he arrives in Tyneside having twice failed to gain promotion from the Championship with Derby County following a brief stint as a coach at QPR, a failed return to FC Twente where he previously won the Eredivisie, a four month spell at Nottingham Forest and a dismal period at Wolfsburg where he was sacked after less than a year.
McClaren has defiantly announced his intentions to be the first man to bring a major honour to Newcastle since Stan Steymour who won the FA Cup in 1955 while in charge, which could suggest the Magpies’ league position could be sacrificed in order to pick up some shiny silverware.
A home match against Southampton offers McClaren a decent prospect of a promising start as Newcastle boss where he will be backed by a 50,000-plus capacity crowd, but defeat will only remind his new fans that he was once a man leading arch-rivals Middlesbrough to a 2004 League Cup win and a 2006 UEFA Cup final.
Man About Toon: McClaren is the new Newcastle boss.
2) Brendan Rodgers – Liverpool
What a year for Rodgers – and not in a good way. He finished May 2014 by signing a four-year extension to his Liverpool contract after winning the LMA Manager of the Year award a few weeks earlier having guided the Reds to 2nd place in the Premier League scoring 101 goals in the process – the club’s most since the 1895-96 season and the third highest in Premier League history. He finished May 2015 with Liverpool in sixth and his job under scrutiny.
Raheem Sterling’s likely departure gives him another headache, as for already the second time in his tenure, he has to find a replacement for his top goalscorer – although Daniel Sturridge missed most of last season through injury.
That ultimately made his job a lot more difficult, as did £15 million man Mario “the postman does not celebrate when he posts a letter” Balotelli failing to deliver.
The Northern Irishman has wasted no time in recruiting for next season, already bringing in six new faces at the time of writing.
Charlton’s Joe Gomez (£3.5 million), Roberto Firmino of Hoffenheim (£21.3 million), Manchester City’s James Milner (free), Burnley striker Danny Ings (tribunal), Bolton’s Adam Bogdan (free) and Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne (£10 million) are the early Anfield arrivals to bolster what was a small side that struggled to cope with both Champions League and Premier League matches last season.
It is not a problem they will have this time around, which could work in their favour like it did two seasons ago, but with Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City being seven of Liverpool’s first eight away games and Jurgen Klopp still as yet being unemployed, Rodgers could well be soon nervously looking over his shoulder.
3) Arsene Wenger – Arsenal
Two successive FA Cup triumphs has certainly relieved some pressure on Arsene Wenger – it has silenced a few doubters, anyway – but this needs to be the season the Gunners finally start firing on all fronts.
The blow-your-socks-off signing of Alexis Sanchez for £35 million around this time last summer was the second sign of intent after the £42.5 million capture of Mesut Ozil the previous season from a manager who had attracted a reputation of being a bit stingy in the transfer market.
Sanchez swiftly showed with his performances why his manager paid the big bucks and the Chilean would later be named Arsenal Player of the Year.
Other signings Danny Welbeck, Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy, David Ospina, and January buy Gabriel Paulista did not quite have the same impact though – with unexpected progress coming from academy players Hector Bellerin and Francis “Le Coq” Coquelin.
Whether Coquelin really is the rock-solid holding role midfielder Arsenal have been craving for years remains to be truly seen, but for now it has filled a reasonably large gap in the “how far are Arsenal away from being Premier League champions?” puzzle.
One piece of the jigsaw has definitely been found, however with the acquisition of goalkeeper Petr Cech from London and title foes Chelsea for £10.9 million.
While the Czech Republic international was no longer the main man between the sticks for the Blues, he is still clearly a top stopper and a definite upgrade on both Wojciech Szczesny and Ospina with Jose Mourinho openly reluctant to sell Cech to a Premier League rival.
Unlike McClaren and Rodgers, Wenger is not wary of an early sacking, but only picking up six points from their opening 12 last season opened the door for Chelsea to romp to the title. A better start this August, and we may just see a first Arsenal triumph since that “Invincibles” team of 2004.
4) Mauricio Pochettino – Tottenham Hotspur
Despite failing to reach the much-coveted Champions League places, Pochettino’s first year as Tottenham boss was a success, finishing fifth and guiding the north Londoners to a League Cup final, but some fans are still not totally sold on him due to a lack of plan B.
The Argentine has wasted no time in planning for next season though, bolstering what was an, at best, dodgy defense with the proven Premier League buys of Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld (both undisclosed fee) who enjoyed successful seasons with Burnley and Southampton respectively in addition to FC Koln’s Kevin Wimmer (also undisclosed fee).
Spurs may attract some neutral admirers this season too with the English core that has the potential to develop in the coming years. Harry Kane had a phenomenal rise last season, going from third choice at Tottenham to most prolific English marksman in the Premier League in the space of seven months.
Ryan Mason, who has spent the majority of his seven-year Tottenham career out on loan to clubs such as Yeovil, Doncaster, Millwall and France’s Lorient ended the 2014-15 season as a once capped England international just a year after spending time on-loan at League One Swindon Town.
Eric Dier also found himself in the spotlight and the new additions of the aforementioned Trippier and Dele Alli (£5 million from MK Dons) join a rejuvenated Danny Rose, Three Lions regular Andros Townsend and Alex Pritchard who returns to White Hart Lane after two successful loan spells at Brentford and Swindon while, although Algerian, academy graduate Nabil Bentaleb will generate admirers from those who love a home-grown player.
This is similar to when he was at Southampton with Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert all getting England recognition as well as Calum Chambers, James Ward-Prowse, Nathaniel Clyne and Jay Rodriguez all earning plaudits while Pochettino was in charge at St.Mary’s.
Pochettino will get a good opportunity to get some early points on the board once the difficult task of Manchester United away is chalked off with Stoke at home, Leicester away, Everton at home, Sunderland away and Crystal Palace at home following that as they look to go one step further and finally reach the promised land of the top four.
Maur of the same please, Poch: Pochettino with rising star Harry Kane.
5) Manuel Pellegrini – Manchester City
It is fair to say that Manuel Pellegrini starting the 2015-16 season at the helm of the Citizens a little surprising.
His pedigree of taking Villarreal to the semi-final of the 2005-06 Champions League and fellow Spanish side Malaga to the same stage five seasons later got him the Manchester City job with the target of making them in a force in Europe, which he has so far failed to do so.
Winning the league title in 2014 did Pellegrini’s reputation no harm, but a trophy-less season where City did not really challenge for the title, only made the last 16 of the Champions League and round four of both the FA and League Cup was underwhelming to say the least.
A huge rebuilding is expected at the Etihad this summer with young talents Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne, Jack Wilshere and Fabian Delph all linked with a move to the blue side of Manchester in order to give them a new lease of life and restore them as champions of England, and finally get them to worry Europe’s elite.
Failure to do so, however, may just result in the Engineer Pellegrini needing a servicing.
As a result of their 2-0 loss away to Chelsea on Sunday, Arsenal have now gone 14 games without being able to defeat a side in the previous season’s top four.
Eden Hazard and Diego Costa provided the goals while the away side did not even fashion a shot on target at Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal have been bullied by the top sides in recent seasons. Chelsea have notched eight goals and conceded none in the last two meetings between the sides, Liverpool romped to a 5-1 win at Anfield last season, Manchester City won 6-3 at the Etihad and even David Moyes’ under performing Manchester United side took four points off their old adversary in the 2013/14 campaign.
Many suggest the reason behind this is that Arsenal get out-thought in midfield, esteemed pundit Gary Neville labelled them “confused” after their 3-0 loss away at Everton in April.
“Arsenal become so confused by it, if you’re going to defend in a four-four-two system you need legs and you need discipline, everything this Arsenal team didn’t have.
“They don’t understand how to defend a cross, they don’t understand the fact that when a left sided player goes across to the left side, the midfield player comes across.
“This is why Arsenal will never move forwards playing attacking players with attacking mindsets”
The likes of Patrick Vieira, Ray Parlour and Gilberto Silva who were all so prominent in the 2003/04 “Invincibles” side are long gone and have been replaced by a new brand of midfielder who play a with a delicate passing style.
Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are the three players most likely to provide bite in the middle but Wilshere is too often sidelined and it is no secret that Wenger is looking for a new defensive midfielder.
Happier times: Arsenal haven’t quite been the same since Viera’s departure.
Sami Khedira and William Carvalho were both heavily linked to a move to the Emirates but neither signed on the dotted line at the North London club.
Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have all added top class defensive midfield players in the shape of Nemanja Matic, Fernando and Daley Blind respectively.
Arsene Wenger’s outfit are already nine points behind the league leaders only seven games in, only two of which have been won along with four draws.
Chelsea ended a high tempered London derby triumphant over Arsenal, winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge thanks to goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.
Costa sealed the three points 12 minutes before the end when he lobbed Wojciech Szczesny after being set up by a delicious Cesc Fabregas pass that beat the Arsenal defence all ends up.
Hazard opened the scoring for the West Londoners when his run where he dribbled past three despairing defenders culminated in Laurent Koscielny bringing down the Belgian in the box and the defender maybe should have been shown his marching orders.
23-year-old Hazard stepped up himself and slotted it past Szczesny with 27 minutes played.
Events off the pitch were the main talking points of the first half however with managers Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger engaging in a touchline spat as a result of a crunching Gary Cahill challenge on Alexis Sanchez.
Wenger was of the opinion Cahill should have seen red for his foul and, after some wind up tactics from his adversary Mourinho, pushed the Portuguese coach in the chest.
Calum Chambers was arguably fortunate to stay on the pitch as well, not picking up a second yellow card for pulling down Andre Schurrle.
Eden Hazard opens the scoring from the spot.
Arsenal also had reason to feel adjudged by referee Martin Atkinson when Jack Wilshere’s shot was blocked by the hand of ex Gunner Fabregas.
Chelsea were worthy winners but an early injury to Thibaut Courtois provided a minor bleak point to their victory. He was replaced by Petr Cech 24 minutes in.
Chelsea: Courtois (Cech ’24) Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas, Schurrle (Mikel ’69), Oscar (Willian ’87), Hazard, Diego Costa
Title contenders Arsenal and Manchester City battled to a 2-2 draw at the Emirates stadium, three of the four goals coming in the second half.
Sergio Aguero gave Manchester City the lead 28 minutes into the game when he arrived on the edge of the six yard box to nip in and score from Jesus Navas’ pass.
Nacho Monreal, who kept his place despite Kieran Gibbs’ return from injury was at fault as Navas was given acres of space on the right hand side.
Jack Wilshere tied the game up just after the hour, providing the finishing touch to a typical Arsenal build up of neat passing play. Wilshere gilded past Gael Clichy and dinked the ball over Joe Hart after a one-two with Aaron Ramsey.
Alexis Sanchez completed the second half turnaround 16 minutes before the end, superbly volleying in a Wilshere header after Ramsey’s cross wasn’t dealt with efficiently enough by Vincent Kompany.
Martin Demichelis ensured City went back to Manchester with a share of the spoils however when he headed home a corner seven minutes from time, being left unmarked by the Arsenal defence.
Jack the lad: Wilshere equalizes for Arsenal
Manchester City had chances to win the game in the closing stages, putting the Gunners under the pressure with a late flurry and even had the ball in the back of the net, but Samir Nasri was offside.
Their best opportunity however was shortly after their opener but David Silva’s effort was well kept out by Wojciech Szczesny but in reality, the Spaniard should have put his side further ahead.
Arsene Wenger will be happy that his side picked up a point today as Arsenal’s record against the top four was poor last season but a late injury to Mathieu Debuchy could be a severe one and it will have left a sour taste in the mouth of his manager.
Debuatant Danny Welbeck was also replaced on 88 minutes due to injury.
Arsenal booked their place in the Group Stages of the Champions League for the 17th season in a row with 1-0 win over Besiktas thanks Alexis Sanchez’s first goal for his new club.
The £35 million signing from Barcelona netted with a first time finish in first half stoppage time that in truth should have been saved by Tolga Zengin in the Besiktas goal.
A neat little one-two between Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil ended up at the feet of Sanchez who had the simple task of scoring his first goal in Arsenal colours.
It could be a confidence booster for the marquee addition who has been somewhat disappointing in England in the early stages of this season.
He should have grabbed a second though when Wilshere played him with a disguised pass in early in his second half but the Chilean’s shot was deflected out for a corner.
Sanchez Strikes: Alexis sends Arsenal through to the Group Stages.
Besiktas had a major penalty shout in the first half when a slip from Wilshere caused Ramon Motta to go down in the box before he had the chance to unleash a shot on goal but referee Pedro Proenca waved play on.
A nervy game burst into life with 15 minutes remaining as Arsenal looked to seal the tie, first Santi Cazorla somehow failed to convert from a two on one situation and then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fired straight at Zengin from six yards following Monreal’s cross.
Soon after Mathieu Debuchy was dismissed for a second bookable offence and then substitute Calum Chambers was bizarrely booked for entering the field of play before instructed by Proenca.
Debuchy will now miss the opening group game for the Gunners due to his suspension.
Card happy Proenca dished out nine yellows in total (two to Debuchy) in what was a hot tempered clash at the Emirates.
Arsenal meanwhile await the group stage draw which is made tomorrow at 16:45 BST.
Arsenal were held to a 0-0 draw in an intimidating Ataturk stadium and have been left with a job to do next week in London which Aaron Ramsey will miss due to his red card.
The energetic Welshman, 23, was given his marching orders ten minutes from time when he tripped Oğuzhan Ozyakup which warranted his second yellow card.
Besiktas began the game with a bang when Demba Ba rattled the bar in the first few seconds, letting fly from the half way line that caused Wojciech Szczesny more worries than it perhaps should have done.
Ba came close again soon after but his volley was well kept out as Arsenal found themselves on the back foot early on.
Olivier Giroud failed to inspire in an Arsenal shirt again, his worst offense being unable to get the ball out from under his feet when under pressure from a defender from point blank range on goal.
Soon after the French forward found himself on a two-on-one situation but his attempted pass to a colleague was easily cut out.
Jack Wilshere had an effort of his own but his tame curler from the edge of the box was gathered well by Tolga Zengin.
It was former Arsenal loan target Ba who looked most dangerous though, some jinking footwork on the edge of the box set him up well but he dragged his shot wide.
Slavan Bilic’s side started the second half as they ended his first, Olcay Sahan curled an effort narrowly past the post though.
Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain produced the best chance of the encounter with two minutes left but he could only hit the post with his attempt.
Arsenal though were largely pedestrian in the Turkish capital, failing to create any real clear cut opportunities and must improve next week if they are to reach the Champions League group stages for the 15th time in succession.
Besiktas: Zengin, Koybasi, Motta, Gulum, Franco, Sahan (Tore ’73), Kavlak, Uysal, Ozyakup (Koyunlu ’81), Pektemek (Tosun ’88), Ba
A 90th minute Aaron Ramsey goal broke the hearts of a determined Crystal Palace side to give Arsenal a deserved three points on the opening day of the Premier League season.
Ramsey fired home from point blank range with the goal gaping following Julian Speroni’s save from Mathieu Debuchy’s shot.
It was cruel on plucky Palace who until then had defended resolutely to keep the likes of Santi Cazorla and new £35 million man Alexis Sanchez at bay for the majority of the match.
Crystal Palace, once again in the temporary hands of Keith Millen, took a shock lead at the Emirates stadium though after 35 minutes when Hangeland headed in Jason Puncheon’s corner.
Zonal marking let Arsenal down as it so often has done in the past. Hangeland lost his marker, bizarrely the tiny Alexis Sanchez, with ease and seized on the cross before a daydreaming Koscielny and made it 0-1 Palace for his first goal in three years.
Hangeland was guilty of poor marking from a set piece ten minutes later however, coincidentally it was Koscielny atoning for his error to head Arsenal level in first half stoppage time.
Heading for greatness: Koscielny equalizes for Arsenal
Puncheon received his marching orders two minutes from time when a late challenge on substitute Nacho Monreal merited a second yellow card and shortly after Palace were punished.