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Could Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain be the answer to England's central-midfield problem?

Sunday 8th April 2018

From all the decisions that Gareth Southgate has to make regarding England this summer, who starts in central midfield is among his toughest.

This England squad is sorely missing in the quality midfield talent that it used to have in abundance in years gone by.

It's why games over the last year have seen a long list of central midfielders given their chance to stake a claim. Jake Livermore, Jack Cork, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Harry Winks are just some Premier League stars who have been given their chance to impress.

It's also why Jack Wilshere remains a serious option for many, despite the fact he has only managed to enjoy half of a campaign once again.

On his day he remains the best option that England have in the centre of the park which, given how his career has panned out, says something a lot about the options available to Southgate.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another that the England manager will be considering. The midfielder’s career has been one defined by nobody being able to figure out what his best position is.

At Liverpool, though, his constant moving around seems to have hit the buffers. Instead, his role has largely been in the centre of the park and after a slow start to life at Anfield, it has become clear that is where his long-term future should lie.

In 12 games in all competitions this term, the 24-year-old has three goals and four assists to his name, more than he’s managed in the 25 games he’s played in various other positions.

His latest strike came against Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.

Deployed in a central role once again there was a fear that Oxlade-Chamberlain could end up being overrun by City’s superb midfield talent. Instead, it was he was doing the running.

Driving from the centre of the park, Oxlade-Chamberlain was the force behind much of what Liverpool did well in the game. His goal was the epitome of his talents when at his brilliant best.

An excellent touch and superb finish, it’s not the first time he’s done that against Manchester City this season.

With Southgate looking likely to employ a back three for the World Cup in Russia he needs to find a central midfielder who is capable of more than just passing from side to side.

He will need a man who has energy in abundance, with the ability to run with the ball. He must be a man who can drive the team forward and provide forward momentum from the middle of the park.

As well as that, they need a player who can be an option offensively, something that all of the recent players Southgate has tried, bar Loftus-Cheek, definitely aren’t. Oxlade-Chamberlain, though, is showing he can be that man.

He was a driving force in the win over Manchester City, showing exactly why Jurgen Klopp was right to sign him for big money.

Crucially, also, he’s proving capable of not only finding the back of the net but pick out assists as well. His numbers this season may not be spectacular but they have been a big improvement on most of his time at Arsenal.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is finally showing signs of the talent that was there all along and his best performances have all come in the centre of the park. On current form, he is the best option England have in the position.

Employing him there would eradicate the turgid midfield displays that often encumber England and would be a smart one for Southgate to make this summer. It's now up to Oxlade-Chamberlain to ensure he makes it a decision the Three Lions boss cannot avoid.

Sean Lunt

Football journalist working in the North West mainly covering Everton and Liverpool but with musings on anything football related. 

Total articles: 110

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