Wenger wants Alex to be as strong as an ox

Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain of Arsenal evading Guadalajara's Oswaldo Alanis during the second half of their pre-season friendly in California. His goal in the Gunners' 3-1 victory prompted Arsene Wenger to hail his "power and penetration".
Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain of Arsenal evading Guadalajara's Oswaldo Alanis during the second half of their pre-season friendly in California. His goal in the Gunners' 3-1 victory prompted Arsene Wenger to hail his "power and penetration".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is hoping Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can be fully fit in time for the start of the English Premier League season after the midfielder struggled with a knee injury last campaign.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, who damaged his knee in a Champions League tie against Barcelona in February, scored in Sunday's pre-season 3-1 win over Mexican club Guadalajara Chivas in California.

Arsenal begin the new season with crucial games against Liverpool at the Emirates on Aug 14 and a daunting trip to Premier League champions Leicester City six days later.

"It's a very important season for him. He has been out for a long, long time. He has been injured and did not go to the European Championship. That's why I'm cautious with him," Wenger said.

"I hope I can get him through and fit for the start of the season. He gives us power and penetration. That's why I would like him to get to the level he can go to."

Full of energy and purpose throughout, Oxlade-Chamberlain on Sunday scored the goal of the match and played a crucial role in another for substitute Chuba Akpom, who scored his second goal in two games.

When he got the ball in the 50th minute, the 22-year-old Englishman started on a run, jinking past a few challenges, before thrashing a left-footed drive from the right of the area that zipped into the back of the net.

Also pleasing for Wenger was that his side took the lead via the unlikely source of new defender Rob Holding.

Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla also put up a good show on his return to action after a long layoff last season due to a knee injury.

Wenger is optimistic Cazorla can regain full fitness by the end of this month.

"He is our technical security in midfield and we missed him for five or six months last season. At the moment he is not completely there on the fitness front," the manager said.

"He's a bit behind the others physically but I think he will be all right, at the end of August he should be all right."

With his players showing good form, Wenger can now address the pressing issues of signing another striker and central defensive cover before the next friendlies against Norwegian side Viking and Manchester City.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'Wenger wants Alex to be as strong as an ox'. Print Edition | Subscribe