Premier League

Wenger: Winger can be next Gerrard

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain poses for a photo with Steven Gerrard.
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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can one day develop into England's next Steven Gerrard.

There was some positive news for the Gunners in a week which saw Theo Walcott ruled out for the rest of the season with a serious knee injury which shattered his World Cup dream, as midfielder Oxlade-Chamberlain made a long-awaited return in the Under-21s.

The 20-year-old - out since the opening day of the Barclays Premier League season with his own knee problem - hopes he can now go on to prove himself good enough to earn a seat on the plane to Brazil this summer.

Wenger, who could include Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench at Aston Villa on Monday night, sees no reason why the former Southampton starlet should not enjoy a positive end to the 2014 campaign for both club and country.

"He has a good opportunity now. I think he will be in Roy Hodgson's plans as he can play central and wide. On that front England do not have too many players," the Arsenal boss said.

"He had a big impact when he came on in that (friendly) game against Brazil (in June 2013), especially in central midfield, and deep in central midfield his future will be there.

"He has a good long ball, penetration from deep and a good quality to distribute and penetrate individually. Certainly he has the same qualities to Steven Gerrard."

Wenger, though, warned against expecting too much too soon.


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"At the moment he is still in formation," the Arsenal boss said.

"It is good for his education as he plays left, right and central when needed. After 23 or 24 you settle in a definite position."

Wenger concedes Arsenal are on the look out for "something special" in the transfer window to help offset the loss of Walcott and offer back-up to main striker Olivier Giroud.

The Janauary sales, though, are not Wenger's favorite time of year, even if Arsenal have plenty of credit.

"A club like ours to find players who strengthen our team in January, it is nearly impossible, honestly," said Wenger, who has been linked with a loan move for Real Madrid starlet Alvaro Morata as well as £32million-rated Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa.

"It is not even about the money. It is just about the potential."

The next game for Arsenal gives them a chance to lay to rest the ghosts of a 3-1 home defeat by Villa on the opening day of the season, which was followed by headlines questioning the club's leadership under Wenger amid broken cannon motifs.

Roll on six months and of course the outlook of Arsenal fans is very different, having shattered their transfer record to bring in £43million German playmaker Mesut Ozil and mount a long-overdue title assault.

"We lost the first game of the season and you kill straight away any hope for people, so of course I can understand it," said Wenger.

"It was not only linked with the result, but it was linked with the fact we had not bought any players and people knew we had some money."

Wenger has yet to sign the offer of an extension to his deal, which is set to expire in the summer.

"There is no big major doubt about that," he said. "I just told you many times the same, nothing has changed."

Questions, though, remain over the exact future plans of the 64-year-old Frenchman.

It has been suggested he could move "upstairs" to a director of football role at the Emirates Stadium, similar to that carried out by long-time allay David Dein.


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Wenger, though, has no intentions of following the example of Sir Alex Ferguson and leaving the dugout just yet.

"If I can help this club, one day I will do it, but I love to be out there on the pitch with oxygen, not upstairs in a room and talk," he said.

Ferguson's shadow continues to hang over Old Trafford, as new boss David Moyes struggles to recapture the Scot's formula for success.

Wenger, though, does not see why that should be an issue.

"It is not the presence of somebody in the stands who loses you the games," said Wenger.

"What is the problem is the players on the pitch who can win the game.

"The problem now is whenever Manchester United do not win a game, the cameras go on Ferguson, he is the man who is missing, but I think that is the wrong problem."

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