West Ham provided the biggest shock in the Premier League on the opening weekend of the 2015/16 season as they beat London rivals Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates in Slaven Bilic’s first league game in charge of the Hammers.
The Croatian would have been forgiven for making ‘safe’ managerial decisions in what was a very tricky looking opening fixture, but instead he handed Reece Oxford his first ever Premier League start in midfield.
At just 16 years and 237 days, Oxford became the second-youngest player to start a Premier League game in history. But that clearly didn’t play on his mind as he put in an incredibly mature performance to nullify Arsenal’s attacking midfield unit of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla.
The Hammers were excellent all afternoon, as they defended excellently and prevented Arsenal from creating any real clear cut chances for much of the game. But it was Oxford who shone most, not least because of his age and circumstances.
The 16-year-old lasted 78 minutes before being replaced by Kevin Nolan, and West Ham fans will be excited about the prospect of seeing Oxford play this season after a thoroughly encouraging debut.
Bilic referred to the young star as a “cool guy” after the game, and he certainly showed no signs of fear as he completed more passes than anyone else on the field on Sunday.
On top of that, Oxford made two interceptions, made the highest number of blocks of all those on the field and won more tackles than Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny, Francis Coquelin, Nacho Monreal and Mathieu Debuchy combined.
He made a total of 32 appearances, which was the fewest of all those who started the game on either side, but he demonstrated excellent positioning and kept Ozil quiet throughout with some fine marking.
Oxford can play in the heart of defence as well as in the defensive midfield role he was given on Sunday and he looks set for a huge season at just 16 under Slaven Bilic this season.
How impressed were you with Reece Oxford’s performance against Arsenal on Sunday?