For Calum Chambers, it’s been a crazy couple of months. Back in June, he was heading into the 2014/15 season as Southampton’s second-choice right-back. Despite some impressive performances throughout the preceding campaign, Chambers was expected to begin the season as back-up to Nathaniel Clyne. He may also have held out hopes of winning his first cap for the England U21s.
However, a move to Arsenal has radically altered Chambers’ fortunes.
Since joining the Gunners, Chambers’ star has shone brighter than ever. He is now regarded as one of the biggest prospects in English football and has already started games in both the Premier League and the Champions League. What’s more, Wednesday night he made his England debut for the full senior team.
It has been a remarkable rise.
There’s plenty of justification for his ascent. Chambers is, after all, a wonderful talent. That much was evident when Arsenal faced Southampton at St. Mary’s back in January 2014. Chambers was deployed at right-back that night, and he performed so brilliantly that Arsene Wenger decided to sign him up this summer.
Initially, it appeared he’d been acquired to provide cover at right-back. With Bacary Sagna leaving for Manchester City and Carl Jenkinson joining West Ham on loan, someone was needed to offer back-up for Mathieu Debuchy.
In football, the best-laid plans can sometimes be thrown out the window. When Arsenal found themselves with a shortage of centre-backs in pre-season, Chambers was thrown into the middle.
Instead of floundering, he flourished. His incredibly composed performances convinced Wenger that he was ready to be the immediate cover for the first-choice pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.
His performances at the heart of the Arsenal defence encouraged Roy Hodgson to pick him for England. Chambers has leapfrogged from the England U19s straight to the senior side, but Wenger believes he is ready to make the step. The Frenchman told Sky Sports:
I believe Chambers has the quality to be where he is. The only danger is psychological—that he's under too much pressure, that it comes too quick.
He's only played (started) three games and is in the national team. Of course that's the speedy way.
I'm not negative about it because at Arsenal we have the example of Theo Walcott, who handled that very well. Jack Wilshere was very quick as well.
Calum is equipped mentally to deal with that. He has the character to deal with the pressure and the attention he will get.
However, some caution is needed, too. English football has a habit of hyping and overpromoting young players, only to knock them down again at the first sign of trouble. Chambers need only look at the examples of Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere, both of whom have suffered at the hands of that particular cycle.
For all of his undoubted potential, Chambers still has much to learn.
Many Arsenal fans feel it is too soon to throw him into the fray as a centre-back. He has only played in the position a handful of times, and that inexperience has been evident on a couple of occasions already this season.
Against Everton, he was guilty of diving in too early during the move that led to Steven Naismith’s goal. He repeated the same error against Leicester City, but he got away with it when Leonardo Ulloa’s subsequent shot failed to find the net.
Neither Chambers nor his club must allow this solitary England cap to let them believe he is the finished article. There is still much learning to be done. Chambers has the talent to become a superb defender, but hard work and humility will be as important as any natural gifts.