Ramsey Has Inspired Me This Season - The New Indian Express

Ramsey Has Inspired Me This Season

Published: 08th December 2013 09:53 AM

Last Updated: 08th December 2013 04:46 PM

As they sat in central London traffic on Friday afternoon, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arsene Wenger passed the time by discussing the physical - and mental - effects of long-term injuries.

"Someone said: 'Why are injured players always so tired?'?" Oxlade-Chamberlain explains. "And the boss said: 'It's because it's the same physical demand than when you are playing, if not more, but without the satisfaction of playing and the rewards you get on the pitch.' And that's it in a nutshell. It's really draining, you are always focused on the next session and I've not had time to do anything else apart from train, recover, train, recover."

Chamberlain: We have played 'really inspirational" football to sit clear at the top | AP
Oxlade-Chamberlain has not felt the "satisfaction of playing" since Aug 17 - the opening day of the Premier League season - when he was injured in a 50-50 tackle with Aston Villa's Antonio Luna. "I thought it was just a dead leg," he ruefully recalls. Unfortunately it was significantly more serious. The 20-year-old had strained the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Arsenal lost 3-1 that day. How the complexion of their season has changed since then: as they prepare to face Everton at home today they sit clear at the top of the Premier League table having played "really inspirational" football, according to Oxlade-Chamberlain. The winger will be at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon but only to watch - just as he has watched every home game, and quite a few away, as he continues his rehabilitation.

That 'rehab' was a hot topic once Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wenger reached their destination: the Teenage Cancer Trust Hub at University College London, which provides day care for young people aged 13 to 24 who are fighting cancer. The pair - and Theo Walcott - are mobbed before touring the facility with the players taking on patients at pool and table football. It is a difficult segue from talking about the unit to talking about recovering from a sports injury but there are plenty of Arsenal - and England fans - on the hospital floor. And they want to know.

"It's been a really good experience to see young people who are a similar age to me and who are going through such a tough time but who are in such a positive environment," Oxlade-Chamberlain says. "It's also a real inspiration to see that they keep up-to-date with football."

And the biggest question is: when will he be back playing? Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has started running again, has studiously avoided asking the Arsenal medics what the time-frame is, but the club hope he will be back in January. "I don't like to ask because I might lose my focus on the next [rehab] session," he says. "That's the way I approach it and it has got me through the first four months."

It has been tough but it is also instructive to hear Oxlade-Chamberlain talk about it being a "great learning curve" and how he has used the time to work on other areas to make him a more robust and better player. He had considered learning a language, learning how to play a musical instrument but instead he worked on his body.

"It's not like going to the gym and lifting dumbbells - it's strengthening your hips, your core and things people would not naturally do. When you are injured you have the time to model your body," he explains.

Chamberlain says he respects the way Ramsey has fought back from injury | AP
Encouragement has been drawn from Aaron Ramsey who, Oxlade-Chamberlain says, "epitomises that you can come back stronger" after the midfielder recovered from the horrific double leg-break he suffered in February 2010. "This season he has been phenomenal," Oxlade-Chamberlain says. "We could always see he had so much ability and Aaron has come back from a tough, tough injury that was also really mentally challenging. You have to admire his mental strengths to keep faith in himself and he is seeing the rewards and so are we."

Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ramsey, along with Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Jack Wilshere all signed new long-term contracts in December last year to - along with Walcott - cement the "British core" that is at the heart of this Arsenal squad.

"It's good to have that group of young lads," Oxlade-Chamberlain says. "You can grow together. To have that British core and people of a similar age group to you, growing up with you in the same environment and learning the 'Arsenal way' is a really good step forward. The boss tries to make us play the 'Arsenal way' and now we have a squad that has been here together for a few years then everyone has gelled together and knows the style of play and you see it every day in training and in matches as well."

Another big difference this season is the continuity provided by no upheaval in the summer transfer window. "That was important," Oxlade-Chamberlain admits. "And you find that consistency comes naturally and the things the players are doing become instinctive because they have been there a number of years and don't even have to think about it. Things like that really do help performances."

The 'Arsenal way' is the exciting, forward-thinking fluid football that Wenger demands and Oxlade-Chamberlain explains what it means. "That's the beauty of playing in this team. We can all interchange really well. It's the modern way - it makes it very hard to pick up. Some teams set up playing man-to-man marking and if they are up against a team who are interchanging it can become confusing and it only takes a second for someone to think 'where's my man?' mistake him for someone else - and in that split-second he's got away and scored."

Add Mesut Ozil - "a big statement but at the same time he's backed that up," Oxlade-Chamberlain on the pounds 42million signing - Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud to the mix and Arsenal have been potent.

Does Oxlade-Chamberlain fear he will struggle to get back in? "No, not at all. You never know what is going to happen in football and the stronger our squad is the more every part of the squad will be integral going through the season." And he adds: "What they are doing at the moment makes me want to get back in double-time and play with them."

There is, also, a World Cup to target - and although Oxlade-Chamberlain says his focus is simply to play regularly again for Arsenal he also knows that he can make a late run for Roy Hodgson's squad for Brazil just as he did for Euro 2012. His last goal? For England in the 2-2 draw against Brazil that marked the re-opening of the Maracana last June. Clearly he wants to return to Rio.

"That's an inspiration but, to be fair, I don't really think of that too much yet," Oxlade-Chamberlain says. "It's only when someone mentions the World Cup to me that I think about it. I've been so focused on my rehab and trying to get back into training and the next step is to try and get back into our side. I have to take it in stages and make sure I do the right things."

Arsenal's match against Everton Sunday is dedicated to The Arsenal Foundation to fund projects like the Teenage Cancer Trust facility. Arsene Wenger and his squad will donate a day's wages to support projects which reach young people. For information and to donate visit

www.arsenal.com/thearsenalfoundation

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