Oxlade Chamberlain says Arsenal are ‘desperate’ to win a trophy
England international wary of Wigan’s threat in FA Cup semi-final
Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in action against Nabil Bentaleb of Tottenham Hotspur. “When people say it’s been weighing on the club heavily, the players are fully aware of that and we want to make that right. We are desperate to win this trophy.” Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty
If humour is a fine antidote to pressure, then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain must be a handy person to have around the Arsenal dressingroom when the heat is whacked up.
The 20-year-old demonstrates a fine knack for breaking the tension when conversation turns, slightly awkwardly, to his recollections of a recent afternoon of turmoil.
There is a brief pause as he considers his account of that 6-0 humiliation at Chelsea, and his role in the focal point when he stretched to tip away Eden Hazard’s shot with a hand, only for the hullabaloo to turn farcical as the referee sent off Kieran Gibbs in a case of mistaken identity.
“It was a nightmare day,” he begins, his expression bashful. “People have asked if I am a midfielder or a winger, but I showed maybe I can play in goal.” The gag is delivered with expert timing and a deadpan expression.
Coping mechanisms are required for any young player who bears considerable hopes for club and country. At the moment a place in the FA Cup final, a top-four Premier League finish, and a berth in England’s World Cup party are at stake.
Pressure is unavoidable, so all methods for easing the load are welcome.
Fortunately for Oxlade-Chamberlain, he appears to be well stocked in that department. As well as his line in humour, and a ready supply of common sense, his father, Mark, a former England international, is always there for advice. The mix of a warm personality and cool head have helped Oxlade-Chamberlain to deal with the turbulent moments that have afflicted Arsenal in recent weeks. His confidence does not seem dented.
The broader reflections of the Chelsea debacle show how he is trying to absorb lessons from whatever this season throws at him.
“The whole situation was crazy,” he says. “Prior to that I was happy with how I was playing and how we were playing. It showed me that in football it can go from being great to the next game something like that happening and you’re the world’s worst. What happened on that day? I handballed it but I did not even know what had happened. It was an instinct reaction and you cannot control those things.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain was horrified to lose a match 6-0.
“You feel completely embarrassed,” he said. Losing by half that last Sunday at Goodison Park was not much better.
“After the Everton game, everyone was gutted,” he says. “Everyone was completely fired up and we knew what we needed to do. To come away with a 3-0 defeat, it is hard to put your finger on what went wrong.
“The initial reaction was disappointment but looking forward you have to put that to the back of your mind as quick as you can and focus on what is still to play for, and we still have a lot to play for.”
Arsenal are, he says, “desperate” for a trophy. An FA Cup semi-final against Wigan represents a sizable carrot.
“Winning a trophy is massive. We’ve all come together as a fairly new squad and for the time we’ve been together we’ve been building ourselves up to a moment like this. Whether it’s the league, Champions League, FA Cup or League Cup. When people say it’s been weighing on the club heavily, the players are fully aware of that and we want to make that right. We are desperate to win this trophy.”
Not that Oxlade-Chamberlain will be taking anything for granted. “Not at all,” he says. “I watched Wigan play Manchester City and, as you do, you expected City to win but not for one moment could you tell Wigan weren’t a Premier League team. They have great players, they play some really good stuff and they compete.” Guardian Service