Arséne Wenger insists that retaining the services of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain next season is crucial for Arsenal football club, and that losing the player would constitute “big damage” for the club.
As quoted in The Guardian, Wenger clearly places great emphasis on the importance of keeping the 23-year-old at the club. While much of the recent headlines have been grabbed by speculation surrounding Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, Chamberlain’s contract expires in 2018 and so penning a new deal is of urgent importance.
Wenger is quoted as saying;
“I personally think it’s vital that Chamberlain stays at Arsenal. We bought him when he was very young and built him up. He has a great mentality and a good football brain and it would be big damage for us to lose this kind of player.”
Wenger went on to dissuade fears that the Ox would leave Arsenal in the summer. Having been questioned as to whether he expected the England international’s contract to be finalised soon, he responded;
“It will be done this year.”
Arsenal have amassed a collection of promising young British players, all of whom appear integral to the future success of the club. Wenger was quick to acknowledge the importance of keeping such players at the club for the long-term, despite interest from other top clubs;
“We have to keep them all. Ramsey, Chamberlain, Wilshere, Gibbs. All these players we have to make decisions and manage to keep them together,” the Arsenal coach said.
The coach was further queried as to what role he envisaged for Chamberlain moving forward. While he has looked most comfortable at central midfield this season, it’s an area that the club expects to have plenty of options. Santi Cazorla has been sorely missed during this year’s campaign but is expected to return next year. Jack Wilshere is also expected to further bolster the club’s midfield options following his loan spell at Bournemouth. Competition for places seems to be Wenger ideal situation however, as he insists that fielding Chamberlain in midfield is his long-term plan for the player;
“That’s always what I’ve had in mind. I’ve played him there a few years ago and I think he did well. He’s offensive and you can feel as well that he’s a guy who can get out of pressure because of his dribbling skill. And he has penetrating skills and in midfield that is important. I find as well that sometimes on the flank he is out of the way. In the middle he’s more focused, he needs to be involved in the game.”
While Arsenal’s failings this year appear similar to those of previous years, many would highlight the absence of Cazorla in midfield as having been particularly damaging. The Spaniard brought a steel and guile to the position which the club have been unable to replicate since. His return, along with the ever improving prospects of Chamberlain and Wilshere appear to leave the club in a stronger position to deal with such injuries next season.