Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: What’s all the fuss about?

Cold beer in hand, I planted myself on the sofa in anticipation of this evening’s FA Cup fourth round tie between Southampton and Manchester United.

My interest in the match itself was subjective. First off, I don’t care much for the FA Cup and the “romance” that surrounds it. Secondly, and most importantly, my sole intention was to see Southampton’s much coveted wonderkid Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in action.

Bursting onto the scene at the start of the season, a string of impressive performances has seen the 17 year-old wingers’ stock rise dramatically in recent months. A £10 million transfer fee is being mooted and with Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool ready to pounce, it looks unlikely Chamberlain will be plying his trade in League One for much longer.

Complimentary in tonight’s pre-match interview with ITV, Alex Ferguson labelled the teenager as “very talented”, citing that he had “undoubted potential.” I was intrigued and desperate to find out if all the hysteria was justified.

Sporting the number 26 jersey, the youngster started brightly. Playing on the left hand side of a compact midfield diamond, he looked to put United full back John O’Shea under pressure from the word go. Brimming with enthusiasm and endeavour, he produced a quietly industrious first half showing.

With United chasing the game, they upped the tempo in the second half. As a result, Chamberlain faded and, aside from a sublime backheel to setup team-mate Dan Harding, he was virtually anonymous as an attacking force.

So what’s the verdict on the latest superstar to come bounding off Southampton’s conveyor belt of talent?

It’s definitely a positive one, albeit with an air of caution.

It’s clear that Chamberlain possesses all the tools to become a top class player. He’s comfortable in possession, has an eye for a pass and has pace in abundance. That said, it was his willingness to work for the team and put in a shift defensively that impressed me the most. For a 17 year-old merely cutting his teeth in the professional game, his disciplined attitude and approach to the game was refreshing.

However, for the time being, we’re only dealing with a player in terms of raw potential. Chamberlain is still very young and is nowhere near to being the finished article. While many think a move to one of the Premiership big boys would be in the players’ best interests, there are others who fear his career could stall and Chamberlain could find himself swallowed up in the world of reserve team football.

Perhaps it’s an idea for the teenager to bide his time, consider his options and continue enjoying first team football.

Stu Martinez

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