By Joe Brewin
North London has a lot to thank the Southampton academy for, according to Theo Walcott.
The striker himself rose through the ranks with the south-coast outfit before being signed as a 16-year-old by Arsenal in 2006.
Walcott believes Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s emergence, together with the impressive form of Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, is clear proof of their success in developing players.
Of course, Arsenal has played a massive role in bringing their duo up to Premier League standard but the England international believes he received a great grounding with the ‘Saints’.
“Imagine if the whole team had stayed together, it would be fantastic,” said the 22-year-old. “It's just a sign that they do things right - they are such a great family club.
“They look after their players and it shows, especially with how Gareth [Bale] is playing at this moment in time.
“Southampton was a great start for me and the other boys but not just for us - there is also Nathan Dyer and Andrew Surman [at Swansea and Norwich]. I could keep on going with that list. It's just nice to see.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain impressed in Saturday’s 7-1 win over Blackburn as the youngster scored his first two Premier League goals against Steve Kean’s side.
The 18-year-old has produced fine form for both club and country since his summer move from Southampton and Walcott is confident the youngster will keep his first-team place if he continues to shine.
“He's very direct and he likes to get at players, which is what any Arsenal fan likes to see,” he said.
“He has plenty of confidence and is young - he's a player who nobody in the Premier League has faced before so he's totally new to the game.
“He's learning every day in training and you can see now that he is getting games, which is very important. I think with the way he is playing at the moment he will keep that position.
“It was nice to see [us both playing well] and hopefully we can just continue to do it for Arsenal now. You never know what might happen with England.
“We have plenty of pace in this England team now. It's not just Alex and me, it’s the likes of Stewart Downing and Ashley Young too - there's so many I don't want to leave anybody out.
“There are plenty of options for the manager [Fabio Capello] so he's going to have a good headache I'm sure.”Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 7 Feb 2012