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Speedy Arsenal man must partner Gerrard in England’s midfield

| 12.03.2014

After Arsenal made a real fist of their efforts to overturn a two-goal deficit to Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain claimed the side could be proud of their performance. In truth it was he who was the shining light.

Playing in the centre of the park alongside Mikel Arteta, The Ox was the epitome of the fighting spirit the Gunners needed to show in order to prevail.

In the absence of Jack Wilshere, it was the former Southampton youth who took up the injured number 10’s dribbling mantle.

Using the pace that saw him move to north London from the south coast as a winger, Chamberlain put in a second superb recent performance in the middle of the field as he ran relentlessly at the heart of the Bayern backline.

There is no doubt that, as the only Englishman on the pitch in Germany, his display ensured his spot on the plane to Brazil with the national team this summer, something he is rated at 4/6 to do with Ladbrokes.

But not only that, it was a performance, in combination with his two-goal effort against Crystal Palace in early February, that means he should be the man to start alongside Steven Gerrard in the middle against Italy.

England are 11/5 to win that match and in order to overcome the Italians renowned defensive solidarity, then a player of Chamberlain’s speed, willingness and direct running in central midfield is a must.

With Wilshere, who is a favoured Roy Hodgson pick, injured for six weeks, Tom Cleverley forever chastised and Jordan Henderson yet to fully earn Hodgson’s trust, it is The Ox who is emerging as the must-pick man to partner the skipper.

It’s not just at international level that Chamberlain can be infuential, with his Champions League display sure to earn him more starts in the middle for the banged-up Gunners. Even the returning Aaron Ramsey may have to wait his turn if the 20-year-old’s form continues.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.