Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hailed the progress of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and admitted he didn't expect him to be playing regular international football at this stage of his career.
At the age of 19, Oxlade-Chamberlain has leapt ahead of his more experienced Arsenal team-mate Theo Walcott to claim a spot in the England team, with Wenger confident his novice has the temperament to handle his rapid rise from promising novice to super-stardom.
"Alex is ahead of schedule because I didn't expect him to be honestly in the national team at the moment," Wenger told reporters. "When you come from youth-team football to the senior squad, it's like going from primary school to university and you have to learn quickly.
"This kind of progress could be bad for someone who is bit big-headed, but Alex is very relaxed, very humble. It can be damaging if a guy thinks 'Hey, look who I am', but he is not like that, so I think it's good to experience the tactical level of the other players in England."
Oxlade-Chamberlain's instant success following his move from Southampton last year is in contrast to the stuttering progress made by Walcott after he followed a similar path to Arsenal, yet Wenger is quick to defend the winger, whose inconsistencies have infuriated the Emirates Stadium faithful over the last six years.
"They are a different style. I believe that Theo is more of a striker-type and Oxlade-Chamberlain is a more midfielder-type," added Wenger, who confirmed there was no progress in Walcott's ongoing contract dispute.
"You could see Alex developing into a central midfielder but you could never with Walcott. I see Theo developing through the middle, that is the way we have always hoped he may go. You can see this boy maturing well now and I believe he can be an important player for us this season."