Both have learned and applied their trade for their clubs as wingers on the right flank of attacking midfield and look set to compete for a place in the future England first team. But which of the pair is the better option for Roy Hodgson?
The elder of the two by a year and almost four months, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain burst on to the scene at Arsenal last season after following in the footsteps of Theo Walcott, making the switch from Southampton to the Gunners.
Arsenal boos Arsene Wenger, somewhat short of attacking options last season, opted to throw the youngster, then barely an adult, into the deep end of the first team where he shone almost immediately.
Having notched up 16 Premier League appearances last season, he’s got some experience under his belt and has progressed into the new season as a quality player – albeit still short of fitness, form and confidence at the time of writing.
The youngster has almost surpassed Theo Walcott as England’s electric right-winger and has earned himself 9 caps and a goal for his country at senior level, despite still being a teenager.
But he’ll need to improve and develop his game if he intends to fend off Liverpool’s brightest young starlet Raheem Sterling who made his debut for England against Serbia on October 16th of this year after impressing in Brendan Rodgers’ young Liverpool side.
He’s already featured in 16 Premier League games for the Reds this term and is, subsequently, in contract negotiations with the club for an improved deal. He’s got the pace, the technique, and the audacity of a player that has the potential to be one of the best, if not the best, winger in the country. He’s confident, self-assured and unaffected – his skill and intelligence is unrivalled amongst his contemporaries.
However, Oxlade-Chamberlain is probably the more versatile of the two – it wouldn’t surprise me to see him deployed in a central role more often at Arsenal as he develops. He too possesses exceptional technical ability – his passing is more incisive and accurate than Sterling’s and his ability to create attacking moves makes him appear beyond his years.
They both lack experience, obviously, along the necessary maturity and composure that comes with it. It’ll be interesting to see in a few years time which of the two becomes the first choice for their country.
I have a feeling Sterling could do more damage on the wing than his Arsenal counterpart but Oxlade-Chamberlain’s potential affinity with Jack Wilshere at Arsenal may be something England look to capitalize on transfer to the international stage.
One thing’s for sure though – Theo Walcott will need eyes in the back of his head to keep his place in England team, or even on the bench, as these two race up behind him – at full pace.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald