One of the strongest parts of Arsenal last season was the defence, with the amount of clean sheets in the Premier League allowing Wojciech Szczesny to share the Golden Glove award with Petr Cech from Chelsea. But a lot of that was down to the excellent partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny and the departures of Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna have left that the Gunners seriously short of cover.
So the brilliant start to his Arsenal career made by young Calum Chambers has been really encouraging and important and suggests that the versatile 19-year old could be set to play in the centre of defence a lot more often. And even though his form so far for Arsenal has led to an England call-up, Chambers has a lot to learn. But who better to learn from than the World Cup winning German.
Our BFG has been a top class defender for years now, despite having to cope with a real lack of pace. Mertesacker has managed to get around that with his other abilities and if he can help Chambers to acquire and refine those, as he says he will in an Arsenal.com report, then the youngster could have years at the top ahead of him with Arsenal.
Mertesacker said, “A first proper pro season at a Champions League club and [playing] international football will be very tough mentally and physically. But he has the character to cope with it. If he wants any advice, I’m here to help.
“It’s very important to have such ambitious players and you could feel that from the start when we first met just how ambitious he is and how important he is for the squad even though he is just 19.
“In our days, good players come in very early and they will get a call-up very early so I think it’s down to the English manager and Arsène Wenger to deal with that. But his character is up for it. That’s my opinion and I don’t think it will go wrong for him.
“He will be very important for the club over the next few years. I didn’t see him much last year for Southampton and I didn’t recognise him. But how he managed to deal with the first few games under pressure and how he trains impresses a me a lot.”
Chambers has featured predominantly in the heart of defence since he joined the club but can also play at right back and in central midfield. Mertesacker believes that versatility is an important attribute in a modern-day defender.
“He has everything. He can play different roles and he will be very important. He comes in and it’s easy for him to feel comfortable. He’s so composed and he will play a big role. As a person I like him very much because he’s calm, he tries to learn and he listens all the time and that is something that is really rare.”
Central defence is one of the positions in which experience is almost as important as your physical attributes and for Chambers to look so comfortable so soon, just how good will he turn out to be?