Wenger hails Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of Arsenal return

The Frenchman has hailed the versatility of the England international, who is set to make his first start for the Gunners since injuring his knee in August
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has lavished praise on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of Friday's FA Cup tie with Coventry.

The 20-year-old is expected to start for the Gunners having recovered from a knee injury picked up in the defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day of the Premier League season in August.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has featured as a substitute in Arsenal’s last two games, against Aston Villa and Fulham, but is expected to start on Friday with Wenger full of praise for the youngster.

"He is in advance of where every player of his age is,” the Frenchman told reporters.

“He is in the national team, a regular player here and he has just been handicapped by a four-month injury but overall he is in a very strong position.

"He can play central and that is not some way off. It is always just finding the right balance because around him you also need a more defensive player.

“But I like his qualities in the middle because he can penetrate and has good power to get out of pressure, that is a very important quality in the middle of the park.

"He can pass people, can accelerate the game, has a good final ball and a good long pass."

Wenger also insisted his side would not be taking Friday’s fourth round FA Cup clash against League One opposition lightly, having been the victims of a cup upset last season.

"We go into this game with a serious attitude," he added. "Last year was a big blow for us [being knocked out by Blackburn] and we want to deal with the game seriously.

"When you are on a run, it is important not to interrupt it with a setback. That is what is at stake - every win makes the team stronger and more confident. We do not want to be up and down and up and down. It is important we continue our consistent run.

"This is a very prestigious competition for me. It was the only competition I could watch in France when I was a kid was the English FA Cup Final. On black and white television, every year we saw the cup final.

"It is true that maybe it does not have the glamour nowadays that it had in the 1960s and 1970s, but it is still for me a very important competition.

"I just remember that I was always admiring Wembley's pitch, because I used to play on really bad pitches, and the white ball ... It was for me a dream to have this kind of ball. I played with a ball with laces at the time, so that was always something special to watch."