Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is better than you think, much better. If you remember back to when Cesc first came to Arsenal he was lauded as a player who would see passes sometimes before his teammates would know where to be. Ox does that as well. Right now, when you see him “misplace” a pass it’s probably because he put the ball where he expected his teammate to move to and not because he physically couldn’t complete the pass. This is about understanding your teammates and will take time to develop.
Physically, he’s a very small player but he plays bigger than himself. For example, it takes two Italians to knock him over!
His touch is unreal. There was a point in the second half when Chambo was running the Arsenal midfield and a bobbled ball came to him. He simply hit it one time to Theo — a daisy cutter they call it — and it was a ball struck in a way I have never seen in real life. The crowd around me actually gasped it was such a wonderful ball.
I’m sure one of my teammates will show me how it’s done this weekend. But it won’t be first time, on the move, in Champions League knockout match while van Pommel is breathing down your neck. And it won’t go precisely to Theo Walcott.
I’ve heard the word “hype” associated with Chambo. It’s not hype, he’s the real deal. Of course he hasn’t arrived yet, yes he dribbles into blind alleys sometimes, and it’s going to take time to get him to have the same type of connection that Cesc had with his teammates but he’s the most talented midfielder I’ve seen play for Arsenal since Cesc.
Unfortunately, he’s so talented that Chambo will no doubt be selected for Euro 2012 and Euro U-21, Euro U-16, Euro U-Euro, U-Euro 21, Euro Club World Euro Cup, and anything else the FA can stuff him into so they can hoover up some money.
I suspect the club learned the lesson from Wilshere, where Psycho and Capello joined forces to try and ruin a young man’s career by overplaying him. Which is why I think Chambo is being reserved at the moment.
So, next time you see him hauled off and wonder why, just remember Psycho is watching and slavering over the idea of playing Chambo 90 times this summer.
Don’t be surprised if Theo is not selected for the national team this summer. No one in England, outside of Arsenal, mentioned him in a positive way during my entire trip. In fact, the fans I sat with mostly called him one-dimensional, utter shit.
What Theo, Gervinho, Chamakh and others remind me of is the book and movie Moneyball. The name of the film and book, “Moneyball”, comes from a concept whereby teams in small markets in Baseball (like the Oakland A’s) eschew traditional forms of scouting and recruiting and instead use data to help decide how to build a team. So, for example, you might look at on base percentage for a player rather than whether he has a good looking wife (that’s an example from the movie).
It’s more complicated than that (a lot more) but the point is that a team which cannot compete with the Yankees on salaries and must act more rationally in the market. This sometimes means that the club will buy players who are kind of misfits. In football that would be taking a punt on younger players, or guys with a history of injury, guys who are one-footed, players who are one dimensional, etc. and will teach them the other skills to the best of their ability.
A lot of people compare Arsenal and Wenger to the Oakland A’s and Billy Beane, but the problem is that unlike Oakland who have just two big teams to compete against, Arsenal play in the Champions League, where there are no less than ten New York Yankees (Man U, Man City, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern, PSG, AC Milan, Inter, and new players Anzhi Makhachkala). At any moment, any of those teams could come along and offer Robin, Wilshere, and Chamberlain £200,000 a week and not blink an eye.
I’ve complained before about Arsenal’s transfer dealings but I hope that I’ve been very clear in saying specifically that I think the club needs more quality in depth. Watching Chamakh and Park play keepy uppy with the other bench players before the game against AC Milan was enlightening. Chamakh has got no touch. Park is OK, Djourou is better, but Chamakh can’t control the ball when it’s played to him and the other guys in the circle were taking the piss out of him for it constantly. Even Park was making fun of Chamakh.
But great first touch is not why he was brought to Arsenal. In typical Moneyball fashion, Chamakh was brought in to get goals from headers. He has done that and now, also in typical Moneyball fashion, it’s time to move him on.
Which is what I think the Podolski signing is about. I was talking to a German guy and he told me that Podolski isn’t a great forward but he’s a good player, hard working, and will probably get goals. But he’s got problems, flaws if you will, and one of them is his attitude.
He’s not being brought to Arsenal to be a replacement for Robin van Persie as I heard someone say. He’s there to add depth to the team. Imagine if Arsene has a player like Podolski who can come off the bench instead of Chamakh and Park. Or Podolski starts and Gervinho/Theo comes off the bench late in a game.
Podolski is, in that way, a Wengerball signing.
I can definitively state that I have met some of the most brutally self-harming human beings on Earth. Every weekend, they climb on buses, get a taxi, walk, take a train, or any of 1000 other ways to get to their church and see their sermon.
Along the way, just like any religious procession, some will fall out. Some will lack the strength to get all the way there. Some won’t even speak the language. But when that happens there will always be a hand out to lift them up and drag them to the stadium.
It’s not just the choruses and the signing, the flashy robes, and the unanswered prayers. It’s the way that the folks I met banded together like a family and not just for a few moments during the game.
It’s any time, any place, it seems.
And I love you all for it.