Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain admits being left out of Sam Allardyce’s only England squad as a “jolt” and a “wake-up call” to make the most of his international career. The Arsenal midfielder is back involved after being called up by Gareth Southgate for this week’s World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovenia. But he says missing out for Allardyce’s one game at the helm, a 1-0 win in Slovakia, made him reassess his role with the national side.
“I didn’t speak to Sam at all but I was disappointed,” he said. “I had hopes to be involved. I had a good pre-season and I felt quite strong so I was disappointed. But that happens. There are a lot of young players especially now that are doing really well and it’s not an easy squad to get into.
“But having been involved in a fair few, especially under Roy Hodgson, I guess it was a bit different for me to be left out. It provided a kick up the back side. I have been playing for England since I was 18 and while I wouldn’t say I took it all for granted, it just seemed to be a part of my season – to play for Arsenal and to play for England.
“And so to be available and to be feeling good and fit – to not be in, yeah, it was a jolt. It was a wake-up call. I am not young now, I am 23, so you need to be performing and playing as much as you can to deserve a chance to go and play for England. So I wouldn’t say I had taken it for granted but being back in the set-up now makes me realise how special it is and it is something I want to keep happening in the foreseeable future.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain was ruled out of the summer’s European Championships with a knee injury which, he revealed was suffered during an extra training session with Arsenal that he asked to take part in. He had just recovered from another knee problem and was ready to press his claims for a place in Hodgson’s squad for the summer when his dreams were shattered for the second successive major tournament.
“We had Man City two games before the end of the season and that was the game I was going to come back in and be ready and then it was the Monday of that week in training that I slipped badly and my studs slipped,” he recalled. “I did the splits and felt my knee go. It was the same knee but the other way.
“I remember crawling off the pitch. On that day I had asked to go and train with the young boys. I think it was the Under-18s and Under-21s because the first team weren’t training, so I was training with them for a bit of extra fitness so I ended up crawling off the pitch.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain was forced to watch the tournament from home and admitted he tuned in for the whole of the embarrassing defeat to Iceland which ended Hodgson’s reign.
But he returned to fitness in time to join Arsenal for pre-season, when his impressive performances prompted Gunners manager Arsene Wenger to question whether a lack of belief might have prevented the former Southampton man from fully realising his potential.
“I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I hadn’t lost a little bit of confidence,” said Oxlade-Chamberlain. “Going back to those comments, do I believe in myself? Yeah, of course I do. But there’s a lot of external factors in there. “How much you play, how you play, all constantly challenge you to doubt yourself. But I’ve learnt now to get on with things.”