Arsenal defender Calum Chambers is set to sign a long-term deal with the club, with new manager Unai Emery rating him highly. It’s a bold move considering the 23-year-old has spent four years at Arsenal without developing into a regular for the first-team, but 2018/19 could be his breakout season.
With Per Mertesacker retiring, Laurent Koscielny having a chronic achilles injury and Shkodran Mustafi struggling for consistency, Arsenal don’t have many defenders of experience to call upon. Big things were expected of Chambers upon his arrival from Southampton in 2014, but he’s yet to live up to the hype. Is Emery right to gamble on the central defender?
Signed by Arsene Wenger from the Saints for £16m four years ago, the England international has gone on to make 83 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal. Chambers’ debut season at the Emirates went well, with the defending playing 36 times in in all competitions and making three appearances for the national team, but he fell out of favour for club and country the following campaign.
In 2015/16, Chambers made just two Premier League starts and had an uncertain future at Arsenal. He spent the majority of the campaign either on the bench or out of the matchday squad entirely and had a lot to contemplate the following summer. If game time was going to continue alluding Chambers in 2016/17, a move away from Arsenal was his only viable option.
The 23-year-old joined Middlesbrough on a season-long loan, making 24 Premier League appearances as the North-East side suffered relegation. Chambers returned to the Arsenal first-team last season but made just 10 league starts and only made the squad 19 times from a possible 38.
Few would be surprised if Chambers was sold this summer, such has been his lack of playing time at Arsenal in recent seasons, but Emery doesn’t want to lose anyone with a modicum of potential.
Arsenal’s Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat is overhauling the defence after an atrocious Premier League campaign. In Wenger’s final season, the Gunners conceded 51 goals in 38 games and endured an 11-game run without keeping a clean sheet between mid-December and mid-March.
For next season, Arsenal have Koscielny, Mustafi, Chambers, Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos. Chambers has fallen down the pecking order, but he’s one of the more experienced options at the back and can still develop if he’s given a good mentor.
With Arsenal set to sign Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Borussia Dortmund this summer, the Greek international could help Chambers become an effective defender. Emery’s high-pressing style could also see the Englishman flourish as he won’t be called into action as frequently as he was last season. Is Chambers good enough for Arsenal? Can he realise his potential?