When I look at the England team that will likely line up against Italy in the Summer, my main area of concern is central midfield. Gerrard isn't quite the player he was, and the combination of Carrick/Cleverly have a combined 0 assists this season. I'm not saying they are bad players, Carrick in particular does a nice job of breaking up play and moving the ball on to more creative forces.
Ross Barkley while a tremendous player with unbelievable potential, has gone off the boil a little, and the same could be said for Ravel Morrison. Which brings me back to the same question I had at the start of the season, who plays in central midfield when England meet Italy in the Amazonian climate? I'm guessing Gerrard barring any injury will be one such player, but if you play Gerrard, you have to play someone with plenty energy next to him.
Enter Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who was stunning in his two goal performance against Crystal Palace at the weekend. Now I know what you're going to say, this is one game and it's against Crystal Palace, hardly the elite competition he'll face if he does line up against the Italians. However you can only play against the players put in front of you, and I hope Wenger allows him to develop as a central midfielder this year. He got his chance because of the suspension of Flamini and the injuries of Wilshere and Ramsey.
When asked about Chamberlain after the match, Wenger said he believes Chamberlain can play out wide and in midfield, but his future will almost certainly be in central midfield. He has the engine, the power and the finishing ability to burst from midfield. His runs on Saturday were intelligent and timed to perfection. This is the key right here, England don't have any players who are willing to run past the strikers, which make us one dimensional and very easy to defend against.
Unfortunately for Ox, he may well find himself back on the wing, meaning his pace is utilised but maybe his power and finishing isn't as evident. However if he does manage to stick in midfield he could be the answer we are looking for. We have to remember that he is still a young lad of 20, and will continue to develop as he plays more and develops his game.
Obviously as mentioned in the first paragraph this is a very small sample size to work off. However his performance and the combination of willingness to get back and break up play and get forward and score goals. Gerrard was our last box-to-box midfielder who could influence the game on both ends, Oxlade-Chamberlain has that capability. It's exciting to see how he, Henderson, Morrison, Wilshere and Barkley evolve....soon we could have too many midfielders, wouldn't that be nice!