Arsenal Must Be Cautiously Optimistic About Calum Chambers

Nick Miller@NickMiller79Featured ColumnistAugust 20, 2014

Arsenal's Calum Chambers controls the ball as he makes his debut during the Emirates Cup soccer match between Arsenal and Benfica at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium in London, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Even though he cost around £11 million, and even though Arsenal's need for a defender became rather more pressing after the departure of Thomas Vermaelen, at 19 Calum Chambers was purchased by Arsene Wenger as one for the future.

However, following Vermaelen's move to Barcelona, Per Mertesacker's careful reintroduction into the team after the World Cup and concerns over Laurent Koscielny's fitness, the former Southampton youngster has found himself thrust into the first team, probably before he could have possibly imagined.

Chambers is, of course, still learning—and not just about how to play at the top level, but how to play the position he has been occupying. The vast majority of his time for Southampton last season was spent at right-back, so it is remarkable that he has played with such poise in the centre for his new team.

Uncredited/Associated Press

Obviously there have been wobbles, notably suffering a few problems tracking the runs of Demba Ba in Arsenal's Champions League qualifier against Besiktas on Tuesday night, but on the whole Chambers has performed with an assurance of a man with twice his experience, both in the game generally and in this position.

Wenger recognises that Chambers is learning but at the same time clearly has great belief in his young charge. He said before the Besiktas game, as quoted by the Daily Mirror:

I think for Calum every game is important, but he looks to adapt very well. Will he play the full season? Certainly not, as he’s 19.

At the moment he looks like he’s growing and every game and resisting the pressure, which is very important in this job. He’s growing and adapting to a new position.

Wenger is, of course, not afraid of trying a young player in an unfamiliar role but such alterations are usually designed to ease someone into playing at the top level by moving them away from the hubbub in the centre of the pitch. Theo Walcott is the most obvious example, a youngster who thought—and possibly still thinks—of himself as a striker, as per the Evening Standard, but he was "converted" into a winger by Arsenal, while other less-successful examples include Jose Antonio Reyes, David Bentley and Carlos Vela.

ALASTAIR GRANT/Associated Press

Chambers' introduction into the team is slightly reminiscent of Kolo Toure's some 10 years ago. Toure was mainly a full-back or midfielder when Wenger threw him straight into the first-team at the start of Arsenal's "invincible" season, partnering Sol Campbell in the centre of defence from the very first game, going on to make 36 league starts and establishing himself as one of the better centre-backs in the division.

This is not to say that Chambers will follow the same path. When Mertesacker returns, he will be Koscielny's main partner, while reports suggest Greek central defender Kostas Manolas is on the verge of signing from Olympiakos, as per James Orr of the Independent.

And, of course, there have been some slightly giddy reactions to Chambers' good early performances, notably from Neil Ashton in the Daily Mail, who declared that the youngster was "ready for England" already.

That might be a little premature, but what is undoubtedly true is that in Chambers, Arsenal have bought a young defender with the poise and confidence to perform when thrown in at the deep end. With other areas of their team causing real uncertainty, that is enormously valuable.


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