The 18-year-old has had a meteoric rise to stardom with the Gunners and claims that it was a legendary former star at the club who helped him to establish himselfArsenal's teenage prodigy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain believes Thierry Henry is to thank for his rise to prominence at the club since his £12 million move from Southampton last summer.
The winger had already scored twice for the club and made a handful of appearances prior to the home game against Manchester United in January, but the stage was well and truly set for his arrival in the big time.
Having been implored for several weeks to drop the ineffective and seemingly out-of-form Andrey Arshavin, Arsene Wenger finally caved in to the peer-pressure and introduced Chamberlain from the start.
His searing pace and trickery caused all sorts of problems for firstly Phil Jones, and then Rafael Da Silva. He even assisted Robin van Persie's second-half equaliser, and the fans' reaction to his departure and Arshavin's arrival spoke volumes as rapturous applause soon turned to boos of disapproval.
Chamberlain recalls how Henry eased any nerves he could have had by offering him words of advice just before the game.
He told The Telegraph: “It was really my first start in a massive game. Just before we were walking out to the tunnel, Thierry put me in a headlock and whispered in my ear: ‘I’ve been watching you in training. You have a bit extra, so try to run at people.
"Don’t waste today. Take people on, show the world what you can do, work hard, work back.’ That gave me massive confidence.”
Arsenal went on to lose 2-1, and the winner ironically came following an error from Arshavin, but Henry had seen enough in Chamberlain's performance to convince the Frenchman he was going to be a star.
Chamberlain added: “Thierry took me to one side after the game, with a big smile, and said: ‘Well done. That’s what I was talking about.’
"Growing up, Thierry was my hero. He used to try stuff and pull it off, fantastic stuff. I remember that goal he scored against Tottenham in 2002, ran though the whole team."
Henry made an emotional return to the Gunners earlier this year to help them out with their striker crisis as Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh were away on Africa Cup of Nations duty.
Chamberlain remembers being overawed by the sheer presence of Henry, and admits it took a while to let the fact that he would be playing in the same side as the Frenchman sink in.
“When he came back to Arsenal, I was a bit shy and nervous for the first two weeks. He was sat two spots away, with Theo Walcott in the middle. It was surreal," he added.
"After two or three weeks, I realised he was a human being, no different to me or anyone else, a nice guy. The main thing I learnt from him was his will to win. I was sat on the bench with him and he was shouting away.
"He’s been there, done everything, so for him to come back to Arsenal, where he’s already a legend, and still want to win shows what makes him such a good player.”
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