Alex: 'We have the quality'
By Scott Field
Thursday, 01 September, 2011
Arsenal winger Chamberlain feels confident ahead of qualifier at Watford.
Tickets are still available at just £10 for adults and £5 for children by clicking here
or calling 0844 856 1881 .
Arsenal starlet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is enjoying a ‘second coming’ with England Under-21 this week, as he rejoins Stuart Pearce’s Young Lions and hopes to cement his starting place for Thursday evening’s crucial qualifier with Azerbaijan.
Oxlade-Chamberlain experienced the Under-21 culture for a short period earlier this year, making the trek to Italy for a February friendly with the Azzurrini where he made his debut.
Now though he’s back for good, hoping to become an integral part of Pearce’s plans at what is the very start of a two-year quest to reach the UEFA 2013 European Championship Finals in Israel.
“It’s been really good and I’ve enjoyed the first few days of training,” said the Gunners' summer acquisition.
“This time I feel a lot fitter and a lot more confident in myself, as last time I was getting back from an injury and I didn’t feel too confident in myself. This time I am starting to play near my best and I am really looking forward to the two games this week.”
The Southampton academy graduate is clearly revelling in the quality of the new England crop, and admitted his move to the Emirates has also helped the settling process at a higher level with the Under-21s.
“Coming from Southampton, when I last came into the England set-up, it was a big step up”, he said.
“I wasn’t used to the big names that played in the Premier League, and being more involved and around it at Arsenal now, you realise it is a step-up. It’s all about applying yourself right and making better decisions more often, which is what these boys do.
“It is good for me being at Arsenal, I feel I have had to step my levels up and that has helped me with England.”
Despite the genuine improvement, Oxlade-Chamberlain - son of former England winger Mark Chamberlain - knows he faces stiff competition in a cut-throat Under-21 environment, where everyone is legitimately vying for a start.
“Competition can only be a positive thing,” added the former England U19 man.
“It means everyone has got to be on point in training, which picks the quality up. Having a good selection of midfielders and talent in the team can only be positive.
“We have got a lot of 18 and 19-year-olds, who are really talented players. Then there are the more experienced players like Jordan [Henderson] and Henri [Lansbury], who have player in the Championship Finals and been with the 21s for a number of years. I think that’s a positive thing and if we can get this group gelled together and playing football it will be really good for the future.
“Personally, I would play anywhere across midfield. Growing up I used to play more in central midfield then at Southampton I played out wide, so I can do both. I have been more used to playing out wide more recently, but I am not fussy, anywhere in midfield is alright for me.”
He, like the remainder of England’s Young Lions, hasn’t failed to notice the opportunities afforded to Under-21 players in Fabio Capello’s senior set-up, especially where they have impressed Pearce and Co.
“Phil Jones and [Danny] Welbeck have quickly proven that they’re capable of playing at that level, and the good thing is that the coaching staff within England are not shy of pushing boys on.
“It is looking good for England and the future and there’s talent in the first team, the 21s and going down to the U19s. It’s looking really good.
“I think now that I have had a few experiences of England I know what it is about. It’s interesting because these boys are the best I the country and it’s good to be able to play alongside them.”
That said, for this young player, the focus is clear – to beat Azerbaijan at Watford tomorrow.
“We know how important and how hard it is to win the group and win the play-off to qualify. Everyone is focused and the gaffer has highlighted how important it is to hit the ground running.
“We have had three really good days of training and if we apply ourselves and work hard, we have definitely got the ability and the quality to get the result we want.”
To follow England Under-21s in the build up to the game, and their fixture at Barnsley on 5 September, log on to TheFA.com, follow at www.twitter.com/thefadotcom or like at www.facebook.com/EnglandU21s
England face Azerbaijan in their opening Group 8 encounter at Watford on Thursday 1 September (7.30pm BST) with tickets still available at just £10 for adults and £5 for children by calling 0844 856 1881 or click here to book.
Tickets for the Israel friendly at Barnsley are also priced at £10 for adults and £5 for children, and are available by calling 0871 22 66 777 or
click here to book