Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hinted that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may be entrusted with replacing Alexis Sanchez at the start of the new season, after claiming the club's Asia tour is "very important" for the England international.
Oxlade-Chamberlain endured an injury-ravaged 2014-15 season and played in just one of the Gunners' last nine league fixtures, while his fitness issues saw him restricted to just a single minute in the FA Cup final triumph over Aston Villa.
Following Sanchez's exploits at the Copa America with eventual champions Chile, Wenger has confirmed that Arsenal's top scorer from last season will miss the start of the upcoming campaign after being given until 3 August to recover.
The North London club face Chelsea in the Community Shield at Wembley on 2 August, less than a week before their opening Premier League game against West Ham United.
Sanchez will therefore definitely miss the curtain raiser to the new season and be given less than a week to prepare for the start of the campaign, meaning the 26 year old is expected to be absent for Arsenal's visit by the Hammers.
But Wenger is unperturbed by the potential loss of Sanchez and says that Oxlade-Chamberlain can earn the opportunity to replace the forward at the start of the season should he impress for Arsenal in the Barclays Asia Trophy, a tournament that starts against a Singapore Select XI.
"Alex played the first 20 games last season and was after that injured, so he is of course one of the regular players in our team," the manager said, according to the club's official website.
"He is not directly always in competition with Alexis because he plays more on the right side than the left, but it is a good opportunity for him because he is not injured. Pre-season will be very important for him."
After suffering from a troublesome groin problem during the back end of the term, Oxlade-Chamberlain could have been forgiven for easing into pre-season so not to rush his first team return.
But the ex-Southampton youngster has hit the ground running this summer and refused to hold back during conditioning training.
"It is horrible!" he told Arsenal.com. "The first week is hell. It's hard work. It's a lot of running, crying, sore muscles, painful massages – it's horrible but this is my sixth pre-season, including Southampton, now and you get used to it.
"You know what you're in for and I think that's why you enjoy your holiday whilst you have the chance because once you come back here it's not too much fun for the first three weeks until you get back into the season."