The Hammers youngster is widely regarded as one of the best talents to come out of the famous academy, with a number of comparisons being drawn to one of the greatest centre-backs of his generation, in Rio Ferdinand. However, since making his debut at just 16, Oxford’s career appears to have stalled after a couple of failed loan spells at Reading and Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Despite a difficult couple of years for the 19-year-old, here are a few reasons why the Hammers should keep hold of him.
Time is on his side
Oxford is still so young and has plenty of time to get his career back on track. It is going to be challenging for him to force his way into the West Ham side at the moment in time, but if he gets his head down and concentrates on improving his game, there is no reason why he won’t eventually break through. With a new, experienced manager at the helm, in Manuel Pellegrini, Oxford should be looking at this as an opportunity.
But, it is not just up to the player, though, as West Ham need to do a better job of integrating him into the first team than they currently have been doing. Show him some love, he’s only 19.
The youngster obviously has a lot of ability. Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t be handed your first senior start, at the age of 16, in a Europa League tie, if you didn’t have talent. And, then there was his Premier League debut against his boyhood club Arsenal at the Emirates, where he had Mesut Özil in his back pocket all game. Remember that one? Of course, you do. It was a performance beyond his years.
Yet, since then, things haven’t exactly gone to plan and his chances have been pretty limited. Oxford has only featured seven times in the Premier League since that day three years ago – which is obviously not enough. You can’t expect young lads to get better if they are not playing.
On the face of it, he has everything you would want in a modern day centre-back. Standing at 6′ 3″, Oxford is very good in the air, his pace allows him to keep up with forwards and he loves a tackle. But, not just that, the centre-half also likes to play out from the back and is extremely comfortable in possession of the ball.
Although Oxford is known as a centre-back, he has proven that he is more than capable of doing a job in midfield. His presence in the middle of the park means that he can either look to use his body to knock opposing players off the ball or display his ability on the ball to get forward and begin attacks. Perhaps, following the sale of Kouyate, Oxford could be the man to replace him and take on more of a midfield role in the side.
Let’s see how Oxford’s spell with Mönchengladbach compared to new signing Issa Diop, fellow youngster Declan Rice and West Ham’s most played centre-back Angelo Ogbonna last season. Given that Oxford played only five matches, which is far fewer than the other three players, it is only fair to show these stats based on per 90 minutes.
Oxford matches up pretty well, right? Although Rice and Diop win more tackles than Oxford at 1.27, his are far better than the most experienced of the four defenders in Ogbonna, who makes just 0.72 successful tackles. The youngster also has a good record when it comes to aerial duels won per game, using his height to win 51.72% of his battles in the air. Only Diop has a better record than Oxford in that department.
Timing and quickness are a huge part of the 19-year-olds defensive game and his interception stats back that up. With a record of 2.29 interceptions made per game, Oxford makes more than any of the other central defenders compared against him. He also leads the way in clearances, with an impressive record of 6.12 per 90 minutes.
Interestingly, the Hammers academy graduate clearly has the highest defence score of 17.75, with Diop the next best at 9.21.No wonder West Ham conceded so many goals last season, as Ogbonna defence score is just 4.16. Yikes.
As ball-playing has become a massive part of the modern defenders game, the graphic above displays just how good Oxford is in possession. Whilst, he has the lowest pass completion rate, that is only because, on average, he makes more than eight passes a game than any of the other players.
If you take a look at the amount of successful passes Oxford players, it is almost as many passes as any of the other centre-backs play across 90 minutes. More importantly, West Ham fans will be pleased to see that, of those passes attempted, almost 30 of them are played forward. Remember, this was based upon five games for the German side, in a team that he probably wasn’t completely comfortable playing in. Those stats could improve dramatically around familiar faces.
What are the benefits of letting him go?
Unless Oxford really wants to leave the club and doesn’t see his future at the London Stadium, then there are no benefits in letting him go. The rumours are that Everton are looking to pay around £3m, but there would be no sense in selling him at that price, especially in this current market. Even if the Irons were to get their £10m valuation, that money isn’t exactly going to make much difference. But Oxford, a homegrown talent, could make a difference and go on to be a great success at the club.
West Ham should take a look at the rise of Declan Rice over the last year and give Oxford similar opportunities. Imagine if, after Rice had that shaky start to his senior career last season, Slaven Bilic decided he was not ready and dropped him. Rice wouldn’t have improved as much as he has and would be back playing with the U23s. Oxford needs that chance to show what he can do, not just over a couple of games, but over several months. It is far too early still in Oxford’s development to let him go and it could prove to be a huge mistake by the Hammers.