Opinions

Scouting Report: Reece Oxford and Manchester City are a perfect match

It wouldn’t be uncommon for a young English player to burst on the scene and be met with a number of plaudits, however when it comes to Reece Oxford his Premier League debut against Arsenal last August was nothing short of sensational. The West Ham youth prodigy was awarded the man of the match when his man-marking of Mesut Özil aided in West Ham’s victory at the Emirates Stadium.

Since making his Premier League debut, Reece Oxford’s virtually flawless performance has helped him gain many admirers. After that day in August, the 17-year-old from Edmonton has been linked with a move to many of the league’s top clubs, all of whom are willing to gamble on his potential. According to reports over the past couple of months, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are believed to be firm admirers of the England under-19 international and are ready to make a formal approach for him. The club are keen to recruit home-grown talent to build around a core of foreign superstars in search of future success.

Oxford is known to be capable of playing in the centre-back role but his natural position is seen as a defensive midfielder. Given his enormous potential, it doesn’t come as a surprise to discover City are keen on making a move for Oxford, but it is unlikely that West Ham will part with their youth prodigy on the cheap. Co-chairmen David Gold and David Sullivan will be keen to earn as much return as possible on their prized asset should any potential suitors come calling.

West Ham signed Oxford in 2011 after he was released by Tottenham Hotspur and have since made him the highest-paid 17-year-old in the club’s history. Harry Redknapp and the club deemed that Reece had no future at Tottenham after continuing to play him as a forward. Now a potential future England captain, surely it’s a move Spurs are regretting considering their belief in youth in recent seasons.

But why would City be plotting a move for him? City’s intention to become the best side in world football is not just a dream, it’s a reality. But whilst the club’s owners believe world domination is possible, a home-grown base of the finest English talent is what they believe is crucial to the club’s identity. Signing Patrick Roberts from Fulham last summer is a perfect example of the plans and the direction City wish to take. Talent like Reece Oxford, Patrick Roberts and other youth products are the core to what they believe will become the club’s identity as they aim to achieve global success.

Young Reece stands out immediately when it comes to first team potential. Since his arrival at West Ham, Oxford trained with the first team since 2014 whilst he spent the majority of last season captaining the under-21 side despite being the youngest member of the squad. A phenomenal achievement but further showing the potential and credentials he holds.

Unlike before, West Ham are now an attractive and progressive club with great ambitions, so the lure of a move for away for players is a lot less likely. European football and the ground move to the Olympic Stadium shows the positive steps the club are making to keep talents like Oxford within the club. On the other hand, City can offer the lure of Champions League football from next season and the first team being coached by arguably the world’s greatest coach in Pep Guardiola.

Oxford’s attributes are suited to the English game and City’s wannabe style of football. The 6ft 3′ midfielder’s quick feet combined with his strength and power make it difficult for opposition players to get the better of Oxford. Yet arguably his biggest quality is the presence he holds in the midfield with his towering stature and tough tackling attitude. His performance against Özil last August could be argued as the finest Premier League debut considering the opposition faced and the quality of player he set upon in a World Cup winner.

His ability on the ball has shown his capability of adapting and becoming a versatile player who could be played in numerous positions. Though City are struggling to solve their central defensive issues because of inconsistent performers, Oxford is seen more as a defensive midfielder rather than a defender. It’s difficult to remember a central midfielder with such presence, leadership and quality since that of Patrick Vieira. The former Arsenal captain was once highly regarded by Arsene Wenger as a youth and was signed just aged twenty-one. Vieira went on to dominate English football and guide Arsenal to three league titles and four FA Cup trophies during his nine years at Arsenal. Vieira’s ‘no-nonsense’ attitude and ability to dominate a game physically is similar to that shown of Reece Oxford during his few, but effective Premier League appearances this season.

During Oxford’s nine games in the West Ham first team, the Hammers have suffered defeat only once (to Leicester). Victories at Liverpool and Arsenal along with a home victory over Tottenham have all come when Oxford has featured in the team. It’s difficult to recall an English central midfielder that possessed the attributes Oxford is currently displaying. With style, strength and the swagger, there’s no denying that the boy from Edmonton is destined for national team success with England.

Oxford will be dubbed over-rated by many fans but in all honesty it’s envy and jealously that many of these supporters will be holding rather than an unbiased opinion about a natural talent capable of leading England to great things. Pundits and critics will hold onto the fact that Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair moved to the Etihad in 2012 for big money moves and failed to create an impact. Well, injury prone Rodwell and Sinclair’s poor attitude contributed to both men’s careers at City ultimately failing. If you look further afield or even right under your nose you could see that a move for Oxford to City will only establish him as a better player.

Raheem Sterling moved to the Etihad having contributed to fourteen goals during his final season at Liverpool. Sterling is now the club’s third highest scorer of the season with eleven goals and has been involved in nine assists. James Milner, Gareth Barry and Joleon Lescott all moved to the Etihad under much criticism from the press also. All three left City having won a minimum of two major honours during their time at the club whilst England’s number one goalkeeper, Joe Hart, has been at City since 2006.

Under the guidance of someone like Pep Guardiola it’s difficult to deny he could aid in the success of Oxford’s future. So despite the critics Oxford could gather should a move formulate to City, his personal attributes and history of the club holding a home-grown core as their key to success make Reece Oxford and Manchester City a perfect match. Should he contribute to half the success Patrick Vieira had done so at Arsenal, it’s fair to say Manchester City will have a bargain on their hands.

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