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Defensive role has Oxlade-Chamberlain studying wing-backs

 

By Jim van Wijk

Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been studying Brazilian wing-back Dani Alves in a bid to earn a starting spot in tomorrow's FA Cup final against Chelsea.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is fighting Hector Bellerin for what is likely to be the right-sided role in the 3-4-2-1 formation that has proven key to the Gunners' resurgence in recent weeks.

His pace and athleticism make him a natural fit in that position but he trails Bellerin in terms of experience, having spent most of his career in central midfield or further forward on the flanks.

To adapt to the defensive responsibilities required, Oxlade-Chamberlain said he has been watching his fellow wing-backs at work, including the 34-year-old Alves at Juventus.

"When I've watched teams that play with five at the back and wing-backs, I've looked at their starting positions and positions out of possession because that comes a little bit more unnaturally to me," Oxlade-Chamberlain said.

"I take note of anyone when they play. There's a lot of teams who have played with that formation, so I watch all the full backs, the left back, the right back.

"There's nobody in particular that springs to mind. When I've watched Dani Alves, he might not play the five at the back, but the way he plays, he marches on and he adds a lot in an attacking sense as well as defensively. Players like that, you watch and learn from."

Oxlade-Chamberlain looked to have made the wing-back role his own when he made five starts out of six towards the end of April but was checked by a hamstring injury, sustained against Southampton two weeks ago.

He returned to training this week and is determined to contribute at Wembley, having missed Arsenal's FA Cup triumph completely in 2014 and came on only as a late substitute when they lifted the trophy again 12 months later, each time due to injury.

"It's a bit of a trend. When it happened (this year), I thought, 'Oh no, here we go again'," Oxlade-Chamberlain said.

Arsenal are hoping a surprise win over Chelsea, who are going for a league and cup double, can help to reduce the disappointment of failing to finish inside the top four for the first time since 1996.

Victory would also make Arsene Wenger the most successful manager in the history of the FA Cup by moving him one ahead of George Ramsay's record six triumphs.

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