by Daniel Snowden
Many comparisons have been made between Arsenal’s two representatives in the England squad, but there is a fair amount of difference between Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
First though, let’s looks at why the two players are being stacked next to each other, with many pundits saying it is one or the other in the England midfield, especially on the right hand side after the surprise omission of Aaron Lennon from Hodgson’s squad.
Both players graduated from the excellent Southampton Youth Academy and made first team appearances before being snapped up by Arsene Wenger for big money. Both players play predominantly on the right hand side. Both possess pace and acceleration. They are both attack minded players. And both are young.
But as far as I am concerned, that is where the comparisons should end. Theo joined Arsenal in the January transfer window in 2006, just before his 17th birthday, but did not make his Arsenal debut until August, after he had already gone to the World Cup as a bit of a wild-card selection by Sven Goran Erikson.
Oxlade-Chamberpot, who is 6 years younger than Walcott, made his big move just after the start of the 2011-12 season, making his debut in August 2011, just after his 18th birthday, in the ill-fated 8-2 at Old Trafford. So, both players were young, but at very different stages in their development.
Positionally they are also poles apart. Walcott sees himself as a striker, although with his slightly shaky goal record he has been used on the right hand side of a front three for the majority of his Arsenal career and it was from this position he scored his hat-trick for England away to Croatia. He has also played on the right of a midfield four, and this looks like his most likely position for England. This despite his sometimes wayward final ball but his pace can be a great asset to get behind a tricky defence, especially in the case of a high back line, as demonstrated against Chelsea earlier this season.
Mylord Chamberlain has so far played across the pitch as any one of the “3” in a sort of 4-2-3-1 that Arsenal employ (broadly at least – the “2” is fairly fluid, with Arteta and Song taking turns to push on) and against Belgium he more or less stuck to the left hand side, although Young looks a fair bet to slip back there one Rooney comes back into the side. He was then replaced by Walcott. So they can play in some of the same potions, but The Ox is far, far better at taking on a man, turning, and has a much wider range of passing. He is also not afraid to have a crack at goal, something that Theo sometimes seems to shy away from, reflecting his poor decision making skills (although he is far better than Alan Hansen gives him credit for).
Oxtail-Souperman also seems to be more grounded than Walcott, perhaps due to the fact his dad is an ex-England international and he has no delusions of grandeur. However, both players seem to be more “normal” than other young footballers and so far neither has shown signs of being the sort of disreputable human being that one could accuse other members of the England squad of being.
There is also the simple matter of age: Walcott is 23 and has 149 appearances with 26 goals to his name for the Gunners. The Ox is only 18, with 16 games and two goals. Clearly one is more experienced than the other but the Ox has at least got some real quality in those games, with his performances against Man Utd and AC Milan catching the eye in particular.
So, although both players are young, English, can play on the right and are fast, they both bring different skills, attributes and experience to the England table, and I for one can not see a reason why both should not be used together for England, pinning back a defence as balls are pumped in from deep for Andy Carroll to then miss.