Calum Chambers is on the road to recovery.
With much of the squad away on international duty, Arsenal received a welcome boost as Chambers took part in full training for the first time since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament against Chelsea last Christmas.
A desperately unfortunate setback occurred after he had played – in some capacity – in 14 of the opening 20 Premier League matches of last season. The majority of those came at right-back to accommodate for the injury of Hector Bellerin, although his final four before being forced off at the Emirates after 23 minutes were indeed in central defence.
Such injuries always required immense attention, but with plenty of time for him to build up some fitness and strengthen his knee, his route back into contention will be gratefully swifter.
Of late we’re seeing a more gradual transition into four at the back, but the arrival of Thomas Partey – while helpful – doesn’t mean Arsenal will suddenly shift into a 4-3-3 in the immediate future.
Rob Holding has been tasked with operating on the right hand side of the defensive three, a role he’s played in six consecutive matches for Arsenal this campaign. He was granted a well deserved rest for the recent victory over Sheffield United, but remains the best option to fulfill that side of the defensive trio.
This is partly due to his superior ability in one-on-one situations. David Luiz can’t cope with a man running at him, and while Holding’s pace can be an issue, he’s a far more reliable option to covering passing lanes and offer cover to whomever is on the right flank.
He can’t play there every game, though. When the back four comes into use that burden will be lifted, but he still needs help.
Signed as a right-back, over time he morphed into a central defender, yet throughout the course of his career, full-back has been his most prominent position. More bodies capable of offering balance when in both attacking and defensive phases is wholly welcome. There is even scope for him to fill in at holding midfield if injury strikes hard.
Positionally and elsewhere, big question marks still remain over Chambers. But he’s a decent enough tackler of the ball.
Getting back up to speed will of course require patience, but as the Europa League group stages commence, his return perfectly coincides with a busy schedule.