September 9, 2012
After getting rave reviews across the board for his performance against Moldova on Friday, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is due for a slightly rude awakening this morning when he picks up his morning Telegraph and reads that Roy Hodgson was actually less than happy with his second half display. Roy said:
I thought Alex was very good first-half. We made it clear to him we were going to take him off after 60 minutes, so I think he forgot to play in the 15 minutes of the second half but that will be an interesting lesson for him as well. Especially when I tell him.
I have to say I’m in awe of this new way of keeping the players in check. You don’t tell them off immediately, you build the tension a little bit. Mention it to the papers that a telling off is coming but don’t mention exactly when it will be. So the player’s on edge for a few days rather than getting just one short sharp shock.
It’s the footballing equivalent of ‘wait til your father gets home’.
It sounds to me like Hodgson himself might be the one who needs to learn a lesson here. If you want to motivate a player to give his all maybe don’t tell him you’re going to haul him off in the 60th minute.
Still, it seems the coach wasn’t too happy with The Ox’s defending and pressing in the second half and that wouldn’t be the first time that aspect of his game had been up for debate. I personally think he’s improved massively on the defensive side in such a short period of time. A year ago he looked like he didn’t know that side of the game at all, frequently looking baffled and caught out particularly when it came to his positioning.
But I’m sure he’ll take the criticism in the right spirit and use it as another opportunity to improve. Along with the nimble feet it’s his attitude that impresses you. He’s learning fast and it’s worth noting that he rarely gets the chance to play a string of games in the one position. Defending on the left side is very different to defending on the right. Ask any right back who’s ever been asked to switch sides thanks to an injury crisis. But Alex has made these positional changes with aplomb and little fuss.
It didn’t go unnoticed that while he was trusted to play in his less orthodox left wing position on Friday, when he did get taken off James Milner had to shift so that Ox’s replacement, Theo, could play on his favoured right wing. Arsene Wenger is a huge advocate of young players learning a variety of positions to give them a greater understanding of the game but also to improve certain weaknesses. And while that never made it any easier to see Nicklas Bendtner patrolling the right wing we can at least be assured that it will make Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain an even better player in time.
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