A good performance from Arsenal was not enough to prevent Bayern Munich from dumping them out of the Champions League on Tuesday, but it did provide them with at least one note of encouragement in the shape of young midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Arsenal youngster played in a more central role than he is usually accustomed to, but acquitted himself extremely well, especially in the first half. Oxlade-Chamberlain is usually an offensive player, but was asked to rein in his natural attacking and adventurous nature in favor of a slightly more responsible, defensive role. Not only did Oxlade-Chamberlain fulfill his defensive duties, he also managed to be the most dangerous Arsenal player on the pitch as well.
Bayern Munich are, technically, the best team in Europe right now. They are the reigning European Champions, after all. Yet the way Oxlade-Chamberlain glided around them as he dribbled with the ball, inviting fouls occasionally, you would not of guessed it. That is no slant on the Bayern players, of course, just an acknowledgment of the level that Oxlade-Chamberlain was actually performing at. It’s the biggest cup competition in Europe against the reigning champions, and Oxlade-Chamberlain was not holding his own — he was standing out.
The biggest regret for Arsenal will be that they could not get Oxlade-Chamberlain on the ball higher up the pitch. They clearly could not handle the 20-year-old when he ran at them with the ball, inviting them to commit fouls; and although he had a big impact on the game, it could have been bigger.
Instead of winning free kicks inside their own half, they could have been on the edge of Bayern’s box or even inside, resulting in a penalty. Playing so deep almost gave him too much to do; playing higher up the pitch, he would have been more dangerous, and it would have put him in more threatening areas.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has always had potential from a very young age at Southampton. The only problem with potential though is that you can never be certain if the player will ever truly fulfill it. The way Oxlade-Chamberlain has performed since he joined Arsenal though has alleviated any of those worries. Right from the start, he’s looked like a class act. Games like this against Bayern just go to show how good he can be.
The next step for Arsenal as Oxlade-Chamberlain matures will be to gain a consistency in his performances. Virtually all young players, regardless of talent, are inconsistent. When that finally does come, Arsenal look like they could have potentially a world-class player on their hands. Of course, Arsenal will be hoping that turns out to be true — and preferably sooner rather than later.