Arsenal have one of the best midfields in entire Europe, but manager Arsene Wenger is said to be keen on signing one more player in that department.
Mikel Arteta appears to be past his best at the age of 32. Even though the Spaniard has played his part for the Gunners in the past three years, he has not been entirely convincing or successful – well, not to the level he was expected to anyway.
With the former Everton defensive midfielder’s contract set to run out at the end of next season, there have been suggestions that Wenger could sell him and sign a younger replacement. A number of names have been mentioned, including free agent Gareth Barry (who is 33) and Sven Bender of Bayer Leverkusen.
However, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s latest comments about his playing position suggest that Arsenal need not sign a defensive midfielder: just mould a youngster already present in the squad to that role.
‘You never really know where your career will take you, but I'm definitely open to the idea of ending up in midfield because I really enjoy paying there, whether it's for Arsenal or England’, The Sunday People quotes him as saying when asked about playing in central midfield.
‘I've learned from the likes of Stevie G (Gerrard) and Frank (Lampard) since I started watching football. They both bring qualities that I'd want to bring to my game if I was playing in that position’.
The 20-year-old’s progress over the past year or so has been curtailed because of injuries, but he has still shown enough to convince England manager Roy Hodgson to take him to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has largely been used out on the wide so far in his career, and he is expected to be deployed in a similar position in Brazil. The youngster’s pace, tricks, skills, ball control and sheer power make him one of the best players to watch when he is on form and not injured.
Now that Oxlade-Chamberlain has said that he is open to playing in central midfield, can Wenger make him his defensive midfielder next season onwards? Both Gerrard and Lampard are attack-minded players but with defensive responsibilities. Maybe Wenger can convince Oxlade-Chamberlain to work on his defensive side and then mould him into a defensive midfielder but with a propensity (and freedom) to attack?
If Wenger can indeed do that, then he could save money on a defensive midfielder this summer. Arteta could remain at Arsenal next season, while Oxlade-Chamberlain’s game could gradually be transformed.
Is this possible? Why not? Stranger things have happened.