Two years ago, the Ox helped Arsenal beat AC Milan in the Champions League, prompting his manager to predict the future. Was he right?
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked a natural central midfielder against Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon.
As well as scoring two impressive goals, the 20-year-old was the hub of most of Arsenal's attacking ventures, spreading play between the flanks and through the middle with aplomb.
“I don't think he is ready to play in this role personally but he will certainly develop into it in the future,” Wenger told Arsenal Player after Oxlade-Chamberlain helped Arsenal beat AC Milan 3-0 almost two years ago.
“He will play [there] again but I think he has to play where he is needed basically. The most important thing at the moment is that he develops well.
“He had a good game but he still has many things to add to his game. That is the purpose now for his work, especially the fitness, the physical intensity to add to his game. That will certainly come if he works hard."
Now it seems the time may just have come - and not a moment too soon.
With Arsenal fans desperately calling for a new midfielder to be signed in January, Wenger's only response was to bring Kim Kallstrom in on loan - despite the Swede carrying a back injury.
But the Ox's brilliant display against Palace yesterday has provided more-than-adequate cover down the middle for the Gunners. Cover from a rather unlikely source, considering the 20-year-old has been injured for most of the season.
Indeed, it is not often a manager is proven right when his quotes from two years ago are revisited - yet this time the Frenchman appears to be spot on.
"I always believed that he could play wide and central," Wenger told reporters last night. "He has proven me right today by scoring the goals."
Could Oxlade-Chamberlain solve Arsenal's injury problems in midfield this season?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald