Calum Chambers looks set to return before the calendar year, at the end of a very long pecking order.
The last time I whipped out my crystal ball, I think I forgot to clean it first. I was regrettably unable to divine that all of Arsenal’s France-based players were quarantining during the Community Shield due to a COVID outbreak in France, and that Willian was on holiday. Brilliant. However, I’ve since conjured up the Windex – it solves everything – and taken a deep look at the future of Calum Chambers.
Since a rather brutal ACL tear against Chelsea on December 29th, Chambers has been a forgotten soul at Arsenal football club. While thankfully not graphic, the injury put a hard stop on the Englishman’s progress this season, just as he was looking to get back into starting shape. It’s a path trodden recently.
Best friend and roommate Rob Holding suffered a very similar injury two seasons back, at a very similar juncture in his own career, He’s since recovered, and has taken advantage of some injuries throughout the squad to re-cement himself a place in the lineup. For now, it looks like the Hale-End graduate is here to stay.
But Chambers may not be afforded the same opportunity. As more center-back signings have rumbled through the gates of London Colney, his future at the club has grown murkier, primarily because of the amount of bodies in his way.
More from Pain in the Arsenal
Arsenal still have a whopping nine centre-backs on the books, and seven of them are right-footed, a statistic that doesn’t bode well for Chambers. He won’t be ready to resume full training until around November, according to voices from the club, and by that time, Shkodran Mustafi will have fully recovered. Barring any subsequent injuries, that puts the 25-year-old nearly last in the pecking order.
He’d certainly start ahead of the Greek coupling of Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Konstantinos Mavropanos (sorry, I really wanted to type out those names together)…. even if one of them is likely to leave before the window shuts and the other is already out on loan at Stuttgart. That’s two right-footers down, and still four to go.
Where Does Chambers fit in?
Without a serious change in the pecking order, like one caused by a number of key injuries, he is not likely to feature in a back-four outside of cup competitions. Even if we consider David Luiz a left-sided centre-back, Shkodran Mustafi reinvented himself under Arteta, Holding is firmly in favor (Newcastle loan pending), and Saliba was effectively signed to fix the defense, if not this season.
He could deputize as a right-back, but even if Arsenal sell Ainsley Maitland-Niles, or preferably Hector Bellerin, he’ll still play second fiddle at best. Cedric Soares would still take precedence in the role, especially over an out-of-position and slightly lumbering Chambers.
The easiest answer is in a back-three formation. He’s comfortable on the right side of a three, and has the height to control the center. He’d still be an option in reserve, but at least there’s a place he can garner some playing time. It’s not going to be easy, but if Mikel Arteta persists with his current tactics, he’s got a shot.
The only other viable answer is that he doesn’t have a place and should be offloaded, but selling a badly injured player like Chambers while he’s in the middle of a long-term deal is both exceedingly difficult and exceedingly cruel. He’ll likely stay at Arsenal football club, at least for the 2020/21 season.
There’s no easy solution to the Chambers conundrum. At this point, the best we can do is wish him a speedy and setback-free recovery, and hope he can stay healthy. Given Arsenal’s history of defenders, injuries, and suspensions, we’ll likely need him at some point in the future.