For any player making their Premier League debut, shutting down the likes of Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla to earn a clean sheet on the road would be deemed a wild success.
That’s what Reece Oxford did today for West Ham, as the Hammers defeated Arsenal 2-0, stunning the Gunners at the Emirates.
Here’s the kicker: Oxford is just 16-years-old.
[ RECAP: Arsenal 0-2 West Ham ]
Oxford played in a holding midfield role for Slaven Bilic, and was mostly tasked with marking World Cup champion and Arsenal’s record signing Mesut Ozil. The teenager did brilliantly, and his play has drawn praise from his own teammates and the opposition alike.
Bilic, who was making his Premier League debut as a manager, was delighted with the showing from West Ham’s prized youngster.
Everybody is asking me now about him. He’s definitely going to be a big player but the risk is not over. He’s 16 and that is his only disadvantage. He’s going to have ups and downs. We have to manage him now not only on the pitch but off it too.
The boy has got everything. Everything. Let’s be fair. Ozil, Cazorla and Ramsey are world class players. It’s not easy to minimize their game. He’s definitely going to make it if he progresses and keeps his feet on the ground. You don’t have to be a manager to see the ability that he has. But we have to protect him.
He does not get fazed. If Messi was in front of me, I’d be more fazed than Reece. But the biggest help apart from his ability, coolness and quality both physically and technically were the boys around him.”
Arsene Wenger said Oxford “looked convincing,” and his teammate Winston Reid called his play “brilliant.”
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
The teenager became the youngest Hammer to play in the Premier League, and the second-youngest player to ever start a match in the PL.
Oxford appeared on the bench for West Ham last season as a 15-year-old, and captained England at the U-17 European Championships earlier this summer. Standing at an imposing 6-feet-3-inches, he looks far from a kid, and his play today proved he can be a man on the pitch.