There are certain players whose reputations are placed in a box with a tight lid placed upon it and no matter what they do, in a game or throughout the course of a season, woe betide we ever let them out. Arsenal’s Calum Chambers is one such player.
He’s a utility defender right? Capable of playing in typically measured fashion in either full-back role or in holding midfield, but principally he’s a centre-back, not a particularly brilliant or exciting one but of Premier League standard. He does a job. He serves a purpose.
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Such a disparaging perception ignores the fact that Chambers was once on a European Golden Boy shortlist that included only four other English talents in Raheem Sterling, John Stones, Luke Shaw and Eric Dier. It ignores the fact that he’s an England international, who made his first Three Lions appearance as a teenager. It ignores the fact that when out on loan at Fulham last season, he was the overwhelming winner of the Cottagers’ Player of the Year award. It ignores that he was amongst the Gunners’ most regular players during pre-season, being involved in almost 70% of all their summer action, and earned acclaim for his displays.
The latter oversight is particularly pertinent in a summer where Arsenal lost their influential captain Laurent Koscielny and flailed around in the transfer market until they found a surprise replacement in David Luiz. Yet even with the Brazilian on board it always felt as though Unai Emery’s men would struggle this term at the back because they lack quality. Chambers, placed as he was in his box, was rarely mooted as a genuine solution.
That perception however is now in need of urgent revision. After starting against Newcastle on the opening day of the season – where Chambers and his partner Sokratis were relatively untroubled for the duration – the 24-year-old was then benched for the following handful of games that saw Arsenal ship more than one goal on each occasion. His return to action came in the recent 3-0 triumph at Frankfurt in the Europa League where he was deployed in his secondary role of right-back and let’s press pause at this point. At this point Chambers has started just two games while Arsenal have kept just two clean sheets. They are the same games.
With the Gunners a goal down and a man down to Aston Villa last week Chambers stepped into the fray coming on as a half-time sub. He scored late on. So another start it was days later when Arsenal hosted Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup. For most of it the England international was again used in his less preferred position of right-back before being switched to left-back but that is not the story here. The story is that his excellent full-backing not only aided another blank for a defence in dire need of it but at the other end produced three assists.
His overall contribution in the latter encounter was little short of exceptional, latter winning fulsome praise from his manager who said: “His performance is starting with his attitude and his attitude is amazing.”
Three starts for Calum Chambers have resulted in three clean sheets. There has been a goal too along with a trio of assists. And with every passing week Arsenal’s habit of leaking goals is lessening.
It’s time to get rid of that box.