There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction. Inaction. A word that currently plagues Oxlade Chamberlain’s career. Potential is there for all to see. Potential is just a word. Application is what matters. Look at those who have executed mastery in their field, whatever that may be. Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Cristiano Ronaldo, what did they perfect? What did they master? Simplicity. Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject. Talent without application is wasted. Application without talent is graft. When you combine the two, you produce phenomenon’s. Few have perfected such a blend. Cultivating a unique set of attributes, whilst having the mental resolve to refuse to accept perfection, even when those around you wax lyrical. That is true mastery.
Let’s divide the two attributes of mastery, and apply them to the Englishman. Talent, something the 23 year old has in abundance. Take his goal against Liverpool as an example. Teasing two defenders, the Liverpool back-line are drawn to the Ox, as if if has them under a spell, before enacting his magic and deceiving both with simplicity, a shoulder drop. Up steps another bystander, awaiting Chamberlain’s magic, and once again, he is deceived. To round off the magic trick, the Ox rifles the ball into the bottom corner, giving the Emirates a slimmer of hope on a day of despair. Whilst the Englishman was unable to weave enough magic in his 30 minute cameo to prevent scenes of desolation at full time, the 23 year old had shown once again what he could do when application was applied to talent. Having already beaten his season record of 5 goals in an Arsenal shirt, many would argue that this application is beginning to coincide with the talent, yet this stat may be deceptive.
Perhaps singling out the Ox’s application is harsh, what I should be singling out is his mentality. Mentality isn’t something you can simply work on and train. Some players are born with a never say die mentality. Those who aren’t born with it, rigorously endured a lifestyle that forced them to embody such a mentality. Take the Ox’s teammate Alexis Sanchez. Growing up in Tocopilla, rural Chile, the Chilean was on the streets earning money from the age of six. Per Alexis’ brother Humberto, the Chilean would “would wash cars for a few pence or perform somersaults for a handful of coins from onlookers.” Alexis would box on the street for entertainment, anything to provide money for his family. This moulded the dynamic forward we see today. Every time the 27 year old steps onto the pitch, his life depends on it. Every tackle he goes into is a full-blooded one, ice runs through his veins, he has developed a mentality on par with the elites. He himself said he sees himself on the level of “Ronaldo and Messi”.
Compare this to Chamberlain’s life. Entering one of the best youth systems in world football in Southampton age 7, the Ox had an environment kindled perfectly to every needed he may need appertained to. At 18 years of age he finds himself making a dream move to North London. Scoring twice in his first three games for the club, Oxlade-Chamberlain became the youngest English goal scorer in UEFA Champions League history. Everything the then 18 year old did was plain sailing, and this is where the issues derives from. The Ox has never faced a situation like he now faces, he hasn’t had to have his back against the wall and have to fight, he hasn’t had to take punches, now he does.
Arsene Wenger claims that the Ox is working “very hard in training and is following Walcott, on the same trajectory.” Proceeding to say that he believes “they’re lifting each other”. The Frenchman has also addressed doubts regarding the 23 year old’s mentality, stating that “He has worked a lot mentally to be really focused.” Whilst these words will be music to Arsenal fans ears, there is still cause for concern.
Sunderland away, Chamberlain starts, and provides a beautifully whipped cross for Alexis to clinically dispatch. Arguably Arsenal’s best performer on the day, the Englishman is rekindling his best form in an Arsenal shirt. Then trouble struck in paradise. Two poor efforts, that should have been dispatched, are dragged wide. If this were Alexis Sanchez, he’d have another 3 efforts, determined to right his wrong. For the Ox however, it’s different. He begins to play within himself, forcing things which were previously natural. This inward style of play continued itself into the North London Derby. Subbed on with 20 minutes to go, the Ox over-hits numerous crosses, commits several fouls, and the crowd get on his back.
We’re back to square one.
With a career defining season coming up for the Ox, any chance given to him he must grab by the scruff of the neck and claim. That said, the fans have a major role to play. Unless we stop persistently antagonising and abusing the Ox when he is not up to his best levels, he’ll never be able to captivate the heights he’s capable of. So, the Oxlade-Chamberlain revival isn’t solely on him, it’s a mission, not a two-man mission, a 60,000 fan mission to back the Ox every time he steps onto the Emirates canvas, allowing him to craft his art.