Arsene Wenger has warned Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that his decision to swap Arsenal for Liverpool does not guarantee him regular football.
Oxlade-Chamberlain makes his first return to the Emirates Stadium tonight following his shock £35million departure to Anfield in August.
The midfielder’s move north was one of the surprise transfers of the summer as Oxlade-Chamberlain had been expected to sign a new deal with Arsenal.
But the former Southampton man made clear he wanted a new challenge.
One of the key reasons behind his decision to leave was to fulfil his ambition to become a central midfielder. At the time the 24-year-old was being used as a right wing-back by Wenger.
However, his time on Merseyside has got off to a tentative start and he has made only five Premier League starts so far.
And Wenger, who went on record as saying he had wanted Oxlade-Chamberlain to sign a new contract, says the player’s lack of starts is unsurprising.
When asked whether Oxlade-Chamberlain’s decision to leave Arsenal was because he wasn’t guaranteed regular first-team football, Wenger replied: ‘Is he sure of a place there? You are sure of a place nowhere. In a big club you have big competition with some good players. That is absolutely normal. What do you want to be, a big player and not have to fight?
‘You can’t be a big player, sit in your rocking chair and say, “I do not want to fight”. It doesn’t work like that. Every player has to fight.’
Oxlade-Chamberlain was one of four players allowed to enter the final 12 months of their contracts last summer, along with Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere.
And Wenger admits that it made financial sense to sell Oxlade-Chamberlain.
‘Look, he had one year to go. At the start of the season we had four players with one year to go and I wanted him to extend his contract,’ Wenger explained.
‘Yes, he decided to go and we respect that. He made his decision and we had to find a compromise to get the best possible transfer fee. I personally think he will be an important player for England and that he will continue to develop.’
Alex Iwobi returned to first-team training on Thursday and is expected to be included in the squad for Friday's match after missing the win over West Ham on Wednesday through injury. Francis Coquelin, who limped off in the Carabao Cup quarter-final, also returned to training on Thursday.