The Milan game was bittersweet. We played really well, and did what I thought we needed to, which was to outplay Milan and restore some respectability. But we didn’t just outplay them, we blew them out of the water in the first half. At 3-0 up you’d have thought we can easily do it now. But half-time allowed Milan to regroup, and having given so much in the first half, our legs couldn’t carry the momentum for 90 minutes. So we fell just short, which hurt.
We’re out of Europe again and we have no chance of winning a trophy. But the positive is that the team’s doing well. We’re still in the same old predicament that we’re in every season. We won’t win any silverware this season, and will probably do just enough to get ourselves into the Champions League.
But there’s a lot of promise in this team. Exemplified by Oxlade-Chamberlain. His shirt number, 15, should give us a hint as to where his long term position is. He’s been cracking on the wing, but has the vision and technique (and strength) to be a real force in the center.
He played as part of a midfield trio against Milan, after making a short appearance there against Newcastle. He hasn’t been spectacular by any means. But he’s shown he has the quality to play there and will grow into that role as he gains experience.
His stats against Milan read like this: 2 shots, both off target; 25/31 attempted passes; 1 chance created, 1 assist (those were from corners); 0/2 take-ons; 1 tackle; 1 interception.
He played a deeper role than Rosicky, who was the tip of our midfield triangle. And in the hectic first half, Song would often be caught up field, but Ox was positionally disciplined, and covered well for his more experienced partners when needed. He was also disciplined with his passing, picking the right pass rather than trying too much, but when he did run with the ball, he looks like a threat. One such run won us the penalty.
He’s already a very mature player, who can develop into a complete midfielder. I can see us playing Ox, Wilshere, Ramsey all together in midfield, because they are all players who are creative but don’t shirk their tactical responsibilities.
But what makes Wilshere, and Ox so special is their ability to skip past defenders even in midfield. It is something Diaby can do as well, and we’ve missed it horribly this season. Wilshere’s ability last season to beat 2 players and then supply the ball to the forwards was invaluable. This season we’ve been more static, because while Arteta is a brilliant passer, he’s not as forward thinking as Wilshere was. He can’t drive through midfield like Wilshere, Ox, and Diaby can. That has probably hurt our creativity as much as losing Cesc has.
For now Wenger will continue with Ox out on the wing, when he does play. But he can be a crucial player for us in the run in, and it might just be in the center of midfield rather than as a flying winger.