Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain left Arsenal on transfer deadline day, signing for rivals Liverpool for a fee believed to be around £35m. The 24-year-old had rejected a move to Chelsea earlier in the week in favour of a move to Merseyside. Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was in the final year of his deal at The Emirates, rejected bigger terms to stay and instead opted to move to Anfield for more game time, in his preferred positions but for less money. With Arsenal only bringing in striker Alexandre Lacazette and left back Sead Kolasinac in the window, who will replace the now departed England international?
There is already talk that youngster Reiss Nelson, who the club rate very highly, will be integrated into the first team squad by Arsene Wenger. The 17-year-old has impressed recently with his performances in pre-season and is expected to be a huge talent in the future. While it may be too soon right now to put Nelson in, you’d expect to see him in and around the first team going forward.
One question about Oxlade-Chamberlain’s replacement has to be what position was he deemed to be playing in. He was most recently deployed at right wing back, with Wenger opting for a back three system. You’d expect Hector Bellerin to move over from playing in an unsuited left-wing back slot, to play on his natural side.
If ‘The Ox’ was seen as a central midfielder, he wasn’t really seen as a starter. If Arsenal wanted to strengthen in that position, I think it would have been done irrespective of whether Oxlade-Chamberlain stayed or went. In one of the more advanced positions, Arsenal have the likes of Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Alex Iwobi. If Arsene Wenger is set to persist with the new formation though, it was very likely Oxlade-Chamberlain would have remained as a wing back option, due to his pace and stamina.
You would probably look at it and say maybe Arsenal don’t need to replace ‘The Ox’ but they do need to add more quality to their squad. Frenchman Wenger was courting Thomas Lemar of Monaco all summer, but this resulted in nothing, as the player rejected a £92 million bid in the final hours of the transfer window. The 21-year-old would have added options in wide and central positions, so you could say he would have replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain. The feeling is though that if Arsenal had got the Lemar deal over the line, it would have seen Alexis Sanchez join Manchester City.
Whether Arsenal needed a direct replacement for Oxlade-Chamberlain or not, they did need to strengthen their squad and yet again have failed to do so. The pressure is really on Arsene Wenger now and he still has to contend with other players such as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez being in the final year of their contracts.
They may be forced to replace outgoing players soon but, right now, after a shaky start, Arsenal’s squad and performances have settled down. However, in spite of a seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions; bookmakers like Sportingbet, still have the club at 25/1 to win the Premier League. This underlines the concern that many have, which is even though the club are enjoying a good run of form; the underlying issues of depth of squad and players’ futures still need to be addressed.