It was in the aftermath of Arsenal's defeat to Manchester City on Tuesday night that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain nailed the truth about the comparisons made between him and his fellow Southampton academy graduate Theo Walcott. The pair of them, both high-profile teenage signings, were, he said, "completely different players".
It has been an easy trap to fall into. Both joined Arsenal for significant money at a young age – although Walcott was just 16 when he arrived in January 2006 – and both of them are, nominally, right wingers. Certainly, for now, it is a position Oxlade-Chamberlain will have to make his own if he wants a run of games in the first team.
But their development in the game, and the positions they see themselves playing in the future suggests they are on different paths. Tuesday was only Oxlade-Chamberlain's fifth appearance since his £15m move in the summer, but the 18-year-old was the most eye-catching performer in an Arsenal team that had the better of City for much of the Carling Cup quarter-final.
Afterwards he said that the similarity in age between them when they joined the club and the fact that they played in the same position for now made it "an easy comparison to make". "We are, though, completely different players," he added. "Theo is more of a winger or a striker, whereas I have always grown up as an attacking midfielder, who has later gone out wide. But Theo is a great player so for me to be compared to him is good."
Oxlade-Chamberlain's progress has been relatively rapid. He now has four starts for the club, albeit three of them in the Carling Cup, and two goals. Now his challenge is to build upon his one substitute's appearance in the Premier League – in the 8-2 thrashing by Manchester United.
The 18-year-old's delivery from the wing already suggests that he has the potential to develop a greater consistency than Walcott managed in his early years at Arsenal. Oxlade-Chamberlain said: "Signing here, I knew I was not going to be involved as much [as at Southampton]. But just being able to train with these players every day, listening to the manager and just being around Arsenal Football Club, I have learnt so much. The next step for me is to push on into the squad."Reuse content