Thursday 23 January 2020

Comment: Why has the career of yet another young Arsenal star stalled so badly?

Calum Chambers
Calum Chambers

Matt Gatward

Calum Chambers’ season-long loan to Middlesbrough - to be confirmed by Arsenal in the next 24 hours - raises doubts over the 21-year-old defender’s likelihood of ever making it at the Emirates – and raises questions over where the blame for that lies.

Back in the summer of 2014 the defender was full of promise –albeit as a right-back rather than a centre-half - when he joined Arsenal for £16m from Southampton and he initially impressed. On his debut he helped beat Manchester City 3-0 in the Community Shield. He went on to make 17 league starts that season but could not budge Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny out of the team. Fair enough: they are seasoned professionals and had built up an understanding and, despite the Gunners falling short in the league (heard that before?), had a good season together.

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Time, then, for the defender to push on in the 2015-16 season – challenge the fading Mertesacker? Arsene Wenger refused the idea of sending Chambers out on loan this time last year. “I want to develop him as a centre-back and he will get games here,” the manager said.

But Chambers made just two league starts last term, did not begin a match in 2016 until this season (the 4-3 defeat against Liverpool) and has been limited to substitute appearances, most of which were means of running the clock down. Not many games, then.

Wenger speaks very highly of Chambers and, according to those within the club, they are not hollow words. He insists he has a long future at the club. But Chambers finds himself surplus to requirements at the Emirates – for the entire season. Rob Holding, just 20 and with three Premier League starts to his name since his summer move from Bolton for £2.5m, is ahead of him in the queue. The club protest that Chambers is still young. But he’s not as young as Holding.

Chambers was raw when he moved to London but has had two full seasons with the Gunners to improve and the surprise now is that rather than hammering on the first-team door, he is walking straight past it and out of the building.

Steve Bould, a centre-half of high repute back in his day, has been Wenger’s assistant of four years now but his work with the defence will be scrutinised while the careers of players such as Campbell stagnate under the club’s guidance.

The 26-year-old left-back Kieran Gibbs is another who cannot get game-time at Arsenal. His path is blocked by the Spaniard Nacho Monreal – but Gibbs was once seen as the natural successor to Ashley Cole with the Gunners – and England. His is another career stuck in neutral.

Sadly, these two young footballers, so full of talent and promise, could be argued to be symptomatic of a club in danger of going nowhere fast, too.

(© Independent News Service)

Independent News Service

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