Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain must take his chance to impress against Reading

Theo Walcott's injury has given Oxlade-Chamberlain a chance to impress for both club and country, and Arsenal's match with Reading this weekend gives him a chance to claim a starting berth for the run in.

Given the success he enjoyed in breaking through last season, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might have thought that this year he would be a consistent part of Arsene Wenger's first team at Arsenal. However the 19 year old has only started eleven league games for the Gunners so far this season, with Wenger perhaps keen to protect him from playing too much too soon and ending up with similar injury problems to Jack Wilshere.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has said himself that he spoke to Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott, who advised him that Wenger had protected them in a similar way in their first years at the club, but the Arsenal manager might have to review his policy now given Walcott's own injury.

The forward is set to miss the match with Reading this weekend having sat out both England qualifiers with a groin injury. The knock is unlikely to keep him out for very long however, and Oxlade-Chamberlain must know that the Reading game is a real chance to stake his claim for a starting place over the final months of the season.

Walcott's form has dipped somewhat since the blistering run he enjoyed around the New Year, and Arsenal have not always looked comfortable breaking sides down in recent weeks. Oxlade-Chamberlain provides a different kind of threat to Walcott, and he could actually be more suited to playing alongside Olivier Giroud.

The French striker has had a solid first season in English football, but perhaps his greatest strength - his aerial ability - is not always utilised due to Arsenal's wingers generally preferring to cut inside rather than swing crosses into the box.

Oxlade-Chamberlain might harbour the desire to play as a central midfielder himself one day, but for the moment he should be happier giving the side width and providing the service for Giroud.

If this is successful against Reading, it has to be an option for Wenger to consider in the course of the run in, and Oxlade-Chamberlain could end up being as important to Arsenal as he hoped at the start of the year.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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