Calum Chambers was signed by Arsenal four years ago as a teenager but is now out on loan at Fulham, but where could his career at the Gunners go from here?
He broke into the Southampton first team as a tall and athletic full-back, and was already singled out for his versatility thanks to starting his career as a midfielder. He was even named captain of England’s U19s, but his transfer to the Emirates Stadium has not progressed his career in the same fashion.
In truth, the move for the then 19-year-old came too early as Arsene Wenger looked to snap up a potential youth superstar after just one Premier League campaign at St. Mary’s Stadium.
Even though Wenger got instant use out of the young defender in his debut season, covering for the likes of Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Debuchy, the emergence of Hector Bellerin curtailed his chances.
A loan spell at Middlesbrough could have killed his chances there and then of becoming an Arsenal great, too, going down in a side that won just five games. Yet he returned to London with a point to prove, after playing a part in the best defensive unit at the bottom of the table.
Chances greeted Chambers back in N5, and come the end of the year was handed a new long-term contract. But despite Unai Emery claiming he would be part of his plans during his inaugural season, he soon shifted the 23-year-old off on loan to recently-promoted Fulham.
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If Chambers wants to make it as a right-back, it will not be at a top-six or even a top-half side. The 23-year-old lacks the pace to play the role in the modern game, and the athleticism he showed as a teenager is not enough for the position anymore.
Even at centre-back, he will not establish himself as the first name on the team-sheet, and at Fulham has been caught out as much as anyone else. While as a holding midfielder, where he featured against Chelsea on Sunday, Chambers has the chance to cement a set role and get his career back on track.
Stepping in to snatch the ball, dribbling through the heart of the pitch, taking on tantalising efforts and playing long passes all go hand-in-hand with the position and suit Chambers’ game to a tee. It is why he performed so well at Stamford Bridge.
Unfortunately, his move to Fulham has placed Chambers behind the likes of Lucas Torreira for that role, and maybe even Matteo Guendouzi, who has shown immense potential under Emery. Even at centre-back, Rob Holding and Sokratis Papastathopoulos have established themselves in that role ahead of the 23-year-old.
So where can Chambers go from here? A player capable of taking on three separate roles, but he is not the best at Arsenal in any of those.
His only chance of making it would be to take inspiration from Danny Welbeck. The former Manchester United forward has never been the first name on the team-sheet since his move to Arsenal, but the 28-year-old is the perfect squad player.
The forward is the kind of option a manager dreams of having; while he will not start every game, he is there on the bench to step in either up front or out wide and can change a game.
Chambers could be that option for Emery but on the defensive side, providing he can accept the backup role. There, he can go on to be an Arsenal player for years to come, but he will have to concede he will never start every game or be the first name on the team-sheet.
Instead, he will be the perfect understudy.