It has been very interesting to watch Chambers’ assimilation into the Arsenal fold. People like me made bolshie assertions that the sixteen million pound signing from Southampton would feature no more this season than Jenkinson did last. Other, wiser bloggers like Shard saw the folly of my statement and took me to task.
I was wrong to think that this season young Callum would only be, at best, the second choice right back. But I was not the only one; I share this error with none other than Arsene Wenger.
Wenger made clear, shortly after signing him, that he had noticed Chambers when we played Southampton and decided then to buy him as a right back even though he was obviously aware that he could play central defense and defensive midfield. At this point no one really cared or took that much notice as we were all still drunk on the news that we had signed Alexis Sanchez.
We then arrive at the Emirates Cup: Benfica being the opener. With first choice right sided centre back, namely Mertasacker, still on the Copacabana and our Belgian back up in the all too familiar surroundings of the sick bay, Wenger opted for Chambers and Monreal to play in the centre of the defense. Yet again, no one took too much notice; they were both obviously just holding the fort until the more experienced players returned.
Koscielny was available but Wenger must have wanted to give Monreal a bit of practice in the doomsday scenario that he might be needed to play there. The idea of Nacho playing CB in a competitive game probably scares the life out of many but he scares me far less than had Miguel been forced into that role. Monreal played as was expected against Benfica but it was Chambers who caught the eye of many a fan.
It was around this time that the Vermaelen to ManU/Barcelona story was starting to gather pace. In Wenger’s Friday press conference he was pressed on the subject to which he replied: should Vermaelen leave, the club will find a replacement because the Belgian is “an important player in our squad”. It is this promise that people are now waving at Wenger and blaming him for not fulfilling, some even going as far as saying that he has been negligent.
But wait, let’s look at the dates?
Wenger made that statement on the 1st August and the game against Benfica wasn’t even played until the 2nd of August. Now it may be true to say that Chambers caught the eye of many a fan in that game but we still had a way to go before outrageous questions such as: should he keep his place ahead of Mertasacker were being banded about. The blue touch paper had only just been lit at this point; the media rocket that propelled him into hyper space with all their grandiose expectations had not fully started in earnest.
Much of the hyperbole was justified: demands for an England call up seemed realistic even Arsenal’s new Tony Adams is not so wild but I for one certainly feel that it went a bit too far. The downward trajectory was inevitable and it started, in my opinion, with the statement pointing out that the nineteen year had played just two competitive games as a CB and had only ever played right back for Southampton.
The truth, as they often say, is somewhere in the middle. There is no doubt that Chambers has been a fantastic buy; he has got quality centre back written all over him, certainly good enough to play the same central defensive back up role that Vermaelen played last season.
The question now is: if he has this unexpected skill set in his locker what else is hidden? Could he be equally adept at playing HM? We have been given a tantalizing glimpse; watch how smoothly he plays the ball along the ground oooh, the accuracy. Add precision passing to the ability to defend and you have got the essentials of a very good HM. I wait with bated breath on that one.
So where are we? There is no doubt in my mind that Wenger misjudged this one; he did not realise how good Chambers was as a CB, who did? But the thing is, mistakes don’t always have to turn out badly, sometimes they can turn out well and they certainly did when we signed Callum Chambers.
Written by LB