There is only one thing more powerful than the human mind, a changed mind. The battle for advancement locks horns with adversity, creating a catalyst for change. The mind of the Ox, the mind of an individual cascading head first into the front-line of this battle with no reinforcements, the mind of a 23-year-old who took on the demons plaguing him with mediocrity and obliterated them with no remorse. The result? Not only an Ox by name, but an Ox by nature.
Let’s rewind back to 2016, a painful year it must be said, apologies for bringing such a year up, how about lets forget the events that unravelled at home and abroad, that’s not the focus of attention anyhow. What was brewing in the midst of global hostility was a Englishman, 23 years of age, working in the shadows of London Colney, fighting off the inadequacy threatening to continually infiltrate his playing career. Bursts of excellency gave slimmers of hope in preceding seasons, inside the explosive Gunners 15 was a fuse attempting to ignite itself, and the Ox finally provided it with the spark it needed. November 19th 2016, the aura of inevitably circulating around the cauldron of Old Trafford, Arsene Wenger throws Chamberlain into the front-line, well, to be precise, the back-line, replacing Carl Jenkinson with 6 minutes remaining. The ball graces its presence at the feet of the Ox, a minute is left on the clock, electricity pulsates through the veins of the enigmatic fullback, steaming past Manchester Utd youngster Marcus Rashford, his right foot crisply wraps around the ball, penetrating the air as it lasers towards the head of Frenchman Olivier Giroud, who meets cross with decisiveness, powering home past a helpless David De Gea.
There was an anger in the Ox, a frustration. Signals of resentment, he deserved to be on that pitch, he deserved to mesmerise the 75000 onlooking fans, that was his right, and he was hell-bent on exercising it. 6 weeks dragged on, the Ox was thrown back into the shadows again, where he’d worked in hope of opportunity, a place that was beginning to torment him.
Corner an Ox, and the Ox will come out fighting. January 28, 2017, the day corners of the Gunners faithful stood up and began to question, began to contemplate, is this the Oxlade-Chamberlain we’ve been waiting for? A masterclass, pure and simple, Leonardo Da Vinci with a football, resentment and the canvas of St Mary’s, he created a masterpiece. 88 touches, 62 passes, 91% passing accuracy, 3 chances created, 2 tackles, 2 interceptions fail to do justice to the perfection of the performance. It was this day, 28th January 2017, that a resurgence was ignited.
In the midst of a faltering Arsenal side in the following months, Chamberlain would be forgiven for not being able to emulate such magnificence, in-spite of his best efforts, his attempts were futile in preventing a catastrophic 2 month period that all but condemned the Gunners to another season of incompetence. Then, as though a blessing from the heavens, an angel blessed the legendary Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger with an idea. The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones. 3 at the back, who’d have thought? The Ox looked on in confusion, fear perhaps, where was he to fit into such a diverse system? The answer, he was to ruthlessly rob the spot of RWB from young Spaniard Hector Bellerin and make the position his own. The robust physique, explosive speed, and continually improving technique and dynamism of the 23-year-old has provided the Gunner’s fans a solace in a season of great sorrow. A great artist can create a picture in his mind, and put it on the canvas. The gifted artist can have isolation between continuation of their project, and resume the status quo. 155 days after his luxurious delivery to Olivier Giroud at Old Trafford, Arsenal are faltering, after taking a deeply cut wound from the boot of Sergio Aguero, the Gunner’s need a savour, a magician, capable of replicating his tricks. The Ox. 155 days after producing his excellence, does so again, Arsenal level, Arsenal win. Oxlade-Chamberlain, the catalyst.
Whatever may come of the resurgence of the Ox, whatever may come of the resulting offers he is given with a year left on his contract, it is hope that will guide us to the possibility of having the 23-year-old in a Gunner’s shirt next season. In the mean time, allow the Englishman to serve as a reminder. A reminder that, as Sun Tzu said, ”Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”, and by winning in the shadows, come Saturday 27th May, the Ox will be ready to go to war.