Connect in the back of the net

A product of the prestigious Southampton youth academy, it’s now two years since Calum Chambers moved to the Emirates, for a fee of roughly £16 million.

Although his initial performances displayed a significant amount of promise, he has now found himself further down the Arsenal pecking order, and faces a season in the wilderness.

So what happened to the youngster?

I’m going to be taking a look at how a player touted as a future England centre-back, now looks to be nothing more than a bit-part player, at best.

 

A promising start

A lot of pressure rested on the shoulders of young Calum Chambers, ahead of his competitive debut for Arsenal.

Without the experienced Mertesacker, he was drafted in to partner Koscielny in the centre of the defence, which at the time would have been considered out of position for the Englishman.

Against the attacking talents of Manchester City, it appeared to be a very difficult task.

Yet, Chambers looked unfazed as put in a display exhibiting much more maturity than his youthful years would indicate.

One game, One clean sheet, One trophy (albeit the Community Shield) – not a bad way to start life at your new club.

Just 6 days later, Chambers started the first game of the 2014/15 Premier League season, aiding his side to a tight 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace.

The youngster impressed again alongside Koscielny, and it looked as though the two had the making of a very decent defensive partnership.

As he continued to go from strength-to-strength, Chambers took his European bow just as impressively away against Besiktas, notching another clean sheet to his name.

In just 9 days, Calum Chambers had kept a clean sheet against the reigning Champions and away in Turkey, and made his European debut- all whilst playing out of position.

As a result of this strong start to the season, Chambers was nominated for the Golden Boy Award 2014, alongside Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw and John Stones.

Combined with an call-up to the Senior England squad at the end of August, it appeared as though Chambers was set to establish himself for club and country.

 

The stumbling block

The return of Per Mertesacker to the starting XI saw Chambers moved to the bench for a few weeks in the middle of October 2014.

The combination of limited game time and poor run of results saw Chambers’ stock dip a little, through no fault of his own.

He was to get his chance to re-establish himself through injury to Mathieu Debuchy in early November.

It started well, with Chambers registering his first senior goal and first assist for Arsenal in a comfortable 3-0 victory over Burnley, this time playing at right back.

The next two weeks were pivotal to Arsenal’s season, facing a very important Champions League fixture against Anderlecht and a tricky away trip to Swansea in the League.

Unfortunately, both games proved to be disappointing for the club, and particularly for Chambers.

From 3-0, the Gunners somehow conspired to draw 3-3 to the Belgian side, resulting in a barrage of criticism for the team.

Just 5 days later, the young Calum Chambers would have possibly his worst match in his professional career to date.

The match against Swansea exposed, for the first time, how unsuited he was to playing at right back.

His lack of pace was exploited time and time again by the tricky winger Jefferson Montero, and he was largely at fault for Swansea’s equalizer as the Welsh side came back from 1-0, to win 2-1.

Confidence battered, moral low, Chambers’ situation was only worsened when, in early December, he was sent off for the first time in his career as Arsenal were defeated at Stoke 3-2; the infamous train station scenes afterwards perhaps overshadowed this fact.

Undoubtedly though, this was not entirely Chambers’ fault.

He had been largely left exposed as a right back, and it was evident that he did not have the pace to deal with speedy wingers- so the management has to shoulder some of the blame.

As 2015 rolled around, Chambers found himself on the bench again, with his appearances in the second half of the season limited due to the emergence of Hector Bellerin.

Debuchy’s continued absence allowed him some game time, but even that was sporadic.

In fact, despite barely being fit, the Frenchman took Chambers’ spot in the FA Cup Final matchday squad, where Arsenal routed to an easy 4-0 victory over Aston Villa.

Calum Chambers finished the 2014/15 season with a respectable 17 starts, but the tail-end of that campaign was an indicator of what was to come as the Englishman struggled even more for game time the following year.

With Bellerin now firmly established as first choice right back, Calum was marginalised, playing just 315 minutes in all competitions.

 

What next for Chambers?

The signing of Rob Holding was a grim omen for the future of Calum Chambers at Arsenal; a young English centre/right back.

Worse still is the clubs’ desperate attempts to sign another central defender, pushing Chambers further down the pecking order.

Talk of a loan move seems to be the best option for him, as the most important thing at this stage of his career is that he gets regular game time, in order to capitalise upon the promise he showed just a few seasons ago.

It would definitely be too early to call time on Chambers’ Arsenal career, given he is still very young. However, this season is still very important, and would give a clear indication as to where the staff at the club see his future.

For the benefits of the player, Arsenal and his country, I only hope he gets the opportunity to demonstrate the abilities that earned him deserved high praise two years ago, and that he can follow in the footsteps of Francis Coquelin, and return to the club stronger than ever.

 

Written by Adam Pritchard

Follow Adam on Twitter @DukeArsenal

Check out his fantastic football blog, Starting At Ten

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