Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughAlex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Not the new Walcott - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Not the new Walcott - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Not the new Walcott

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain moved from Southampton to Arsenal as a teenager, commanding a £12 million fee.  He is comfortable playing on either wing and possesses great pace.  It’s easy to draw comparisons between Arsene Wenger’s latest wonderkid and Theo Walcott, but that’s a dangerous trap to fall into.  From Chamberlain’s handful of appearances so far for Arsenal, it’s clear to see he’ll evolve into not only a different player to the England winger, but also a better one.  Never was there clearer evidence of this than during the Gunners’ 2-1 defeat at the hands of Man United on Sunday.  As Walcott produced a disappointing display, Chamberlain, in his first Premier League start, offered an exciting glimpse of what Arsenal and England fans have to look forward to.

When Chamberlain completed his move to the Emirates, there were always going to be comparisons in the press and from the fans between him and Walcott.  However, the teenager was quick to have his say on the matter, ensuring everyone that he isn’t just the new Theo.  This is a wise point to make, as being the next Theo Walcott is hardly a label that any ambitious teenager would be delighted to receive.  The youngster was eager to point out that he is, in fact, a completely different player to the England man.  Whilst Walcott is a striker, more commonly deployed on the wing, Chamberlain began his career as an attacking midfield player, only eventually finding himself playing out wide as a result of his pace.  This insight into his development explains why he is already the superior player to Walcott on the ball, in terms of first touch, passing and vision.  These are attributes that he displayed in abundance on Sunday, an afternoon in which Theo didn’t produce an impressive account of himself.  In fact, the bemused look on Robin Van Persie’s face when Arsene Wenger sent on Andrey Arshavin for Chamberlain, as opposed to Walcott, told a story of its own.  The Arsenal fans were hardly pleased with the decision either.

For a number of years now, Theo Walcott has looked like someone who could, one day, develop into a good footballer.  Since his surprising call up to England’s 2006 World Cup squad, prior to even making his Premiership debut, he has been regarded a key player in the nation’s footballing future.  However, now at the age of 22 (not really that young for a footballer), his development hasn’t progressed at the anticipated rate.  Despite still leaving numerous defenders for dead with his pace, the quality of Theo’s final ball is still poor and his finishing is not good enough for someone who wants to be taken seriously as an out-and-out striker.  Everyone remembers that night in Zagreb, when Walcott burst onto the international stage in a big way, grabbing an eye-catching hat trick.  However, what a lot of people don’t realise is that in his 20 other England caps he hasn’t scored once, or even put in a single memorable performance (for the right reasons).  I hope for England’s sake that he is a late bloomer and all his promise will translate into match-winning performances.  I also hope England’s next manager is of the belief that time can run out and if former prospects are failing, it’s time to bring through a new crop of new ones.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, on the other hand, is only 18 years-old.  From what I’ve heard and seen, he has quality, maturity and pace.  The teenager has publicly stated that despite disliking the comparisons between himself a Walcott, he appreciates having Theo around.  Walcott is someone he can learn from, not only because they play in a similar position and have followed a similar career path, but also because Theo is a smart guy and would be keen to pass on any important lessons.  However, if he really wants to learn and set about becoming the best player he can possibly be, there are better teachers in the Arsenal squad right now.  Robin Van Persie clearly thinks Chamberlain is a talent and is someone any young player would love as a mentor; but Thierry Henry is perfect for the job.  If Henry didn’t play another minute during his time at the Emirates, mentoring Chamberlain instead, he would still have been an excellent signing.  By training regularly alongside one the best players in Premier League history, Chamberlain’s development could be incredible.  If I were Arsene Wenger, I’d make sure the two of them spend as much time as possible together on the training ground.  The club legend mentoring the latest hot prospect; perhaps a bit of a cliché but hardly an awful idea.

So what are the chances of Chamberlain joining Walcott on the plane to Euro 2012?  Articles are already being written, suggesting the winger will be Capello’s “wildcard” pick for the competition.  As long as Gervinho is at the African Cup of Nations, Chamberlain should get more chances, but that’s not a long time to prove himself and secure a starting spot for the remainder of the season.  Without regular football for Arsenal it would be difficult to justify including the teenager in his 23-man squad.  This is of course another comparison to Walcott, who received his shock call-up to a major competition in 2006, as previously mentioned.  That decision was a particular blow to me personally because, not only was it an awful one, it also cost me £50.  A few years before, I had bet my dad that Jermain Defoe would be on the plane to the World Cup, but Walcott was offered that final spot, which many expected to be filled by Defoe.  Perhaps that’s why I’m bitter and not a Walcott fan.  Either way, if Chamberlain fulfils his early promise, he’ll shine in comparison to Theo and we may look back one day and realise I was right after all.

Paddy von Behr @HighBalls1