Friday’s transfer rumour menu is full of the usual indigestible fare, but few sit more uncomfortably in the gullet than Chelsea lining up perennial Arsenal substitute, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, to replace proven world beater beater, Eden Hazard.
Everything is still at the hypothetical stage of course, although even if the troubled genius that is Hazard in 2015/16 was to leave Stamford Bridge, Oxlade-Chamberlain falls some way short of a viable replacement for the reigning PFA and FWA Player of the Year.
It is nothing to do with the disproportion in individual accolades, albeit Hazard’s vast haul compared to his Arsenal counterpart’s modest collection featuring the League One PFA Team of the Year 2010/11 and Arsenal Player of the month in February 2014, gives rather a large hint.
Flattering to deceive
Oxlade-Chamberlain does possess talent, particularly in the dribbling department, but for a purely attacking player his effectiveness in the final third can be far too easily scrutinised.
A tally of 13 goals in 140 Arsenal appearances does not reflect a forward with a keen eye for the net (nor does no Arsenal strike since the Community Shield in 2015/16), while a ceiling of 25 Premier League appearances in four full seasons to date, points towards a player plagued by injuries as well.
Seldom does the man affectionately dubbed as “the Ox” feature in any assists charts either; he has registered none in 17 Premier League appearances this term for example.
Having arrived at the Emirates as a precocious teenager off the same Southampton conveyor belt that provided Arsenal with Theo Walcott, and costing the princely sum of £12m, Gooners were firmly expecting to see great things.
Potential is not being realised
It is unfair to say he has been a failure, especially given his international recognition, though it is fair to say he hasn’t realised his potential under Arsene Wenger.
Only six top-flight starts this season give further evidence that the Ox has never really held down a place in the manager’s eyes.
The 22-year-old is also tripped up by his versatility. He suffers from being considered neither an out-and-out wide forward nor a central midfielder, while ironically it’s the latter role he’s been cast in fewest but also appeared to be most successful in.
If he was to move to Chelsea, it is wildly optimistic to think he would be granted more starts at the Bridge than he already gets at Arsenal.
Gooners may disagree, but if a player as enigmatic as Joel Campbell can steal more limelight than the 24-capped England forward this term, then something has gone badly awry in Oxlade-Chamberlain’s development.
A step down is more advisable
Rather than moving to Chelsea or any other of the highest bracket Premier League clubs, the Ox looks like a player crying out to make a step down in order to make a step back up again.
With buckets of time on his side and having lost his way at the Emirates, being given a defining role at a top-half club would be the best next move, even just for a season.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £50 in free bets.