‘It is vital that the Ox stays’

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been one of our standout players in the second half of the season.

He's appeared in five positions since the start of the campaign but the Ox has looked most at home - and happiest - in central midfield.

Santi Cazorla’s injury has given Oxlade-Chamberlain a chance in the engine room and he’s looked Santi-esque at times in the way he breaks free of danger and bursts past opponents. No wonder Arsene Wenger wants the England man to stay.

“I personally think it is vital that Chamberlain stays at Arsenal,” said the boss. “We bought him when he was very young, we have built him up and I think he has a great mentality and a good football brain. It would be a big damage for us to lose this kind of player.”

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Cazorla will return next season and, with Aaron Ramsey, Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin, Granit Xhaka and Jack Wilshere at the club, Wenger has plenty of central midfield options. But he believes Oxlade-Chamberlain has a future there.

“I think so,” said the manager. “He can lose balls but defensively he is strong in the challenge when he wants to switch on. He has that kind of robustness to deal with body-to-body which is very important in the Premier League.

“When I didn't play Ozil I had to find a combination with Alex in central midfield. He is offensive and you can see as well he is a guy who can get out of pressure. He has a dribbling skill and acceleration that can get you out of pressure.

“He can penetrate, and in midfield that is important. I felt as well sometimes on the flank he is out of the game but in the middle he is more focused. He needs to be involved in the game.”

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