Arsenal target Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain called up to England Under-21 squad

Saints sensation makes step up for England
Southampton winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been called up to the England Under 21 squad for the first time as manager Stuart Pearce names three new players to his squad.

Goal.com UK exclusively reported on Monday that the sensation has agreed a deal worth £10 million to join Arsenal at the end of the season.

The Saints star, 17, was due to play for the Under 19s side against Germany next week, but is now expected to feature against Italy’s U21 side.

Pearce’s team have their first fixture of 2011 next week, when he takes his young England side to Empoli to face Italy, in preparation for this summer’s European Championships.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of three new players – the others being Burnley forward Jay Rodriguez and Middlesbrough defender Joe Bennet – called up for Tuesday’s fixture.

Pearce cited injuries as the reason for adding new faces to the squad and is keen to blood new talent.

“We’re missing a number of players through injury, but it will give me a chance to look at a few new players,” Pearce told TheFA.com.

“Rodriguez has been playing well for Burnley and deserves an opportunity with the Under 21s, likewise Joe Bennett at Middlesbrough has previously played for the Under 19s and his performances for Tony Mowbray have been impressive.

“I also saw Southampton play Manchester United in the FA Cup on Saturday and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is showing a lot of promise so we thought we’d bring him into the squad too,

“We’re now looking ahead to the tournament in Denmark and this game, and the ones coming up in March, will give players the chance to try and cement their place in the final 23 for the summer,

“Their club form and performances for England will be important when we choose who to take with us to the finals so it’s also nice to see so many of the squad now playing regular first team football.

“Earlier this season maybe less than half of our squad was playing every week, but now nearly everyone is turning out in the Premier League or Championship on a Saturday afternoon.

“Daniel Sturridge has played in a number of games for Chelsea, but hasn’t had a lot of minutes, so his move to Bolton is very important and could give him the chance to start more often and gain more experience in the Premier League.”

“Martin Kelly is playing regularly at Liverpool, James Tomkins has had a long run in the West Ham side and is back in for the first time in over a year while Fabian Delph returns to the side too, so we have a strong group of players.

“And the message will be that we have games coming up for the players to impress upon the coaching staff their credentials for a place on the plane to Denmark. We want to have a tough job of narrowing down to 23 so we have the best chance of success in the summer,” Pearce added.


Full England U-21 squad for Italy friendly:

Goalkeepers
Frankie Fielding (Blackburn Rovers), Scott Loach (Watford), Jason Steele (Middlesbrough)

Defenders
Joe Bennett (Middlesbrough), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Martin Kelly (Liverpool), Ben Mee (Leicester City - loan from Manchester City), Micah Richards (Manchester City), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), James Tomkins (West Ham United), Kyle Walker (Aston Villa - loan from Tottenham Hotspur)

Midfielders
Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa), Jack Cork (Burnley - loan from Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Southampton), Jordan Henderson (Sunderland), Henri Lansbury (Norwich City - loan from Arsenal), Fabrice Muamba (Bolton Wanderers), Jack Rodwell (Everton), Scott Sinclair (Swansea City)

Forwards
Nathan Delfouneso (Aston Villa), Jay Rodriguez (Burnley), Daniel Sturridge (Bolton Wanderers - loan from Chelsea)

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