Dove Magazine

Alexis Sánchez sets the tone for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and team-mates

It ought to be a given for a professional footballer to be obsessed with the game, but the way Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tells it, there is a normal level of dedication in a dressing room and then there is the explosive leap up to the Alexis Sánchez level. Oxlade-Chamberlain seemed genuinely impressed as he elaborated on what he sees from Arsenal’s Chilean livewire every day.

“The one thing I would say about Alexis is that he’s one of the most passionate and hungry individuals I know,” he said.

“It’s his everyday mannerisms around the training ground, how he trains, his performances, how he scores goals, how he plays and how he defends from up front. These are all things that we can all learn, that everyone who watches football could learn from. I’ve definitely put myself in the bracket of somebody who learns from him every day.

“He’s someone that loves football, just loves playing football, and being involved in and around football. That comes out in training. He’s very passionate, very upbeat and is a massive character in the team. For someone that doesn’t have amazing English, he manages to communicate so well to all of us and keep the dressing room upbeat.”

Alexis Sánchez

Alexis Sánchez, left, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrate the Arsenal forward’s hat-trick goal at Leicester. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

It is interesting to note how the Sánchez effect has become such an important touchstone at London Colney. It is not just in the business of seeking out goals on matchday that his impact is felt, as it was with a dazzling hat-trick at Leicester last weekend. Oxlade-Chamberlain explained how his “positivity” rubs off all week. For some of the younger members of the Arsenal squad it is a resource that they would be daft not to tap into. Observing one of the most talented players giving his all in every training session, and analysing his own game to try to work on any marginal gain, makes a big impression. “If he knows when he’s not at his best, which is rare, he’ll always push himself to do as well as he can and he demands a lot of himself.”

That particular sentiment chimes with Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has a tendency to look negatively at his own game. Although the 22-year-old comes across as a very confident young man, both the manager and his father, the former England player Mark Chamberlain, have been known to talk to him about his self-belief, which can get quickly eroded. Wenger brought it up recently, as he thinks this is a key point in the player’s development.

“I did see that and I chuckled because my dad says that to me a lot,” said Oxlade-Chamberlain. “It’s a valid point. It’s definitely something for me to take on board and look to improve on.”

Wenger takes up the theme: “We spoke about it. I see him train every day, he is dedicated, focused, hungry. His dad said he lacks a bit of self-belief and I can confirm that because he is very critical of himself. That’s positive and a sign of top-level sportsmen but you have to find the right balance – not happy with what you do, without harming the confidence. He is maybe not happy enough with his performance after the games and sees only what he has not done well, not enough what he has done well.

“Look, he’s 22. He is in the English national team, he plays many games for Arsenal. You become a complete player at 23. From 23 to 30 is certainly where you are at your best. He has the future in front and a bright one.”

Olympiakos in the Champions League brings back some good memories for Oxlade-Chamberlain. It was in this fixture four years ago that he made a big announcement of his promise, scoring on his European debut to become the youngest English player to score in the competition.

“It is a long time ago,” he said. “I can only remember the goal and feeling quite tired in the first half. I think I got a bit of a shock about the step up I had made at that time. It seems like a lot has happened in between that but at the same time, in my opinion, I would have wanted more to have happened in that time, so it gives me motivation and hunger to do more.”

Arsenal go into the game against the Greek champions with no room for error. It seems strange to refer to a contest on the second matchday as must-win but after a poor start in Zagreb, and with Bayern Munich back-to-back coming up next, Arsenal must beat Olympiakos. “We cannot drop points,” says Wenger.

Not easy, though. “These teams dominate their leagues. Olympiakos won comfortably on Saturday, they were safe after 20 minutes, when we were in a high-intensity game at Leicester. Mentally you cannot ease off before a Champions League game, as some others can. For example Dinamo Zagreb played on Saturday and they took three players off at half-time. I cannot do that at Leicester. For sure the Premier League is demanding and consuming energy wise – mentally more than physically.”

For Arsenal, the Sánchez school of motivation has to be the order of the day. – the guardian-

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Héctor Bellerín has established himself as one of the Premier League’s finest full-backs and a regular in the Spain squad since breaking into the Arsenal first team. Photograph: Christophe Ena/AP
Héctor Bellerín has established himself as one of the Premier League’s finest full-backs and a regular in the Spain squad

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