It was in the aftermath of Arsenal's defeat to Manchester City on Tuesday night that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain nailed the truth about the comparisons made between him and his fellow Southampton academy graduate Theo Walcott. The pair of them, both high-profile teenage signings, were, he said, "completely different players".
It has been an easy trap to fall into. Both joined Arsenal for significant money at a young age -- although Walcott was just 16 when he arrived in January 2006 -- and both of them are, nominally, right wingers. Certainly, for now, it is a position Oxlade-Chamberlain will have to make his own if he wants a run of games in the first team and it is Walcott who currently occupies it, even though he considers himself a striker.
But their development in the game, and the positions they see themselves playing in the future, suggests they are on different paths. Tuesday was only Oxlade-Chamberlain's fifth appearance since his £15m move in the summer, but the 18-year-old was the most eye-catching performer in the Arsenal team.
Afterwards, he said that the similarity in age between them when they joined the club and the fact that they played in the same position for now made it "an easy comparison to make". "We are, though, completely different players," he added. "Theo is more of a winger or a striker, where as I have always grown up as an attacking midfielder, who has later gone out wide."
Oxlade-Chamberlain's progress has been relatively rapid and his impact instantaneous. He now has four starts for the club, albeit three of them in the Carling Cup, and two goals, one in the competition and another in the Champions League.
When Walcott arrived in January 2006 he was cup-tied for both domestic cup competitions (Arsenal had already gone out the Carling Cup) and the team were on their way to reaching their only Champions League final. His first-team debut was at the start of the following season while Oxlade-Chamberlain, who arrived two years older, has been afforded a smoother transition.
But the 18-year-old's delivery from the wing already suggests that he has the potential to develop a greater consistency than Walcott managed in that part of his game in the early years at Arsenal.
"When I came here, I did not think I was going to jump into the squad straight away," he said. "All I can do is try my best to impress when I have got my chance. I just have to keep working hard and improving. The next step for me is to push on into the squad.
"I trust the boss to progress me in the best way and I will work with him as much as he will work with me." (© Independent News Service)