Arsenal youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is close to returning to first-team action after four months out sidelined through injury.
The 20-year-old England international was stretchered off with a knee injury in Arsenal’s 3-1 opening day defeat to Aston Villa. Many things have changed since then – the Gunners broke their transfer record to sign Mesut Ozil and charged to the top of the table, where they have had a stronghold over the Premier League since late-September.
Injuries in that period to Gunners teammates Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott have seen manager Arsene Wenger bring youngster Serge Gnabry into the loop and the German starlet has made a big and bold impression this term, not least in his excellent display in Arsenal 2-0 win over rivals Tottenham in the FA Cup on Saturdayl.
Gnabry and Oxlade-Chamberlain are two of the hottest prospects both for Arsenal and their national teams – Oxlade-Chamberlain burst on to the international scene with England last year to sensational effect and has already notched up three goals for his country in 13 appearances.
18-year-old Gnabry has yet to be called up to the senior squad with Germany but has impressed at under-19 level and at every youth level beneath that. He is certainly one for the future and I would suspect his potential could be further increased by having senior Germany stars Ozil and Podolski training with him week-in-week-out.
Arsenal vice-captain Mikel Arteta described Gnabry as like a ‘boxer’ following their win over Spurs and his quality was clear to see throughout the game which, for a player of his age to come in and not be cowed by the occasion of a North London derby cup-tie, is a demonstration of how much composure this young man has and what a big future he has ahead of him.
Meanwhile, Wenger has revealed that Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to resume full training next week and could be back in action for Arsenal towards the end of this month but, with the World Cup just around the corner, will the young Englishman have a fight on his hands to reclaim his place in the team?
Prior to his long injury layoff, he had just begun to be considered a regular starter in the first-team after playing something of a bit-part prior to 2013, and his major competition for his place had been from his senior England teammate Walcott as well as Gervinho. The Ivorian winger has now departed, but the emergence of Gnabry as well as the signing of Ozil could make for a complicated rotation system for Wenger, especially once Walcott is back fit.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald