Arsenal’s centre-back conundrum – What to do with Chambers and Holding?

What to do with Holding and Chambers? by Dan Smith

Many gooners were surprised last season to hear that Rob Holding and Calum Chambers had extended their Arsenal contracts. That reaction sums up where they stand in the pecking order at the Emirates, both inconsistent, so therefore it’s hard to gauge if we’ve secured our future defense or just given out new deals to maintain value on two assets.

Sometime their confidence seems too fragile to suggest they belong at this level. Then though they have their moments. Chambers got rave reviews during his loan spell at Middlesbrough while Holding will always have the 2017 FA Cup final to tell his children about. Both were offered fresh terms with uncertainty over the manager, so this has been a club decision.

How much faith Unai Emery has in either might determine Mustafi’s future. The German’s experience might prove crucial with Koscielny out for the long term. While we have signed two defenders based on experience, it might be unfair while they are settling into England to expect them to immediately lead a young back 4 or 5.

The ultimate show of faith would be to cash in on Mustafi and play Holding and or Chambers from the off to see if they sink or swim. It’s often said the centre back is the one position you can’t rotate with. It’s a role where you need to form a partnership and strike up an understanding with those around you. How are Chambers and Holding meant to gain momentum if they feature every 4 matches, sometimes starting, sometimes not making the bench? Even Arsene Wenger , accused of giving too many opportunities to young talent would only select them in fixtures he deemed less important.

It’s no coincidence that Holding looked so good the one time he got a short run in the side.
Despite relegation, Chambers looked better for having lots of consecutive minutes at the Riverside. Once their playing time became scattered, both seemed to lose self belief. So if we are in transition anyway why not give the two Englishmen a proper run with the baton. Let’s find out once and for all if they really are good enough. If your not willing to do that, what was the point in giving them new contracts?

Dan Smith


  1. Innit says:

    CB Im very worried about. It’s too early to judge Mavrapanos and Sokratis. I don’t feel Chambers/Holding are close to the quality of Alderwield, Vertonghen, Stones, Lovern etc. Koscielny has aged and is not as good as he used to be. Mustafi is acceptable/decent.

    Torreira is definitely an improvement and should help our defense

    Positive news is that Ozil is coming back to training early. That’s good in terms of his mentality and also gives Emery to work on him. Hopefully both his play and physical/mental health. If he can come close to his 19 PL assists/ 6 pl goals season I will be very happy.

    1. gotanidea says:

      Koscielny has aged. Hopefully Mavropanos can replace him and be the towering CB Arsenal need

      In this season, I want to see more assists and goals from open play. I don’t want to see too many set piece goals, because it is gonna be boring

    2. Fab says:

      The same scenario of being the GOAT without WC Vs wining the WC with zero shot on target, zero goal, zero take on, zero dribbling.Haaaaa

      1. Declan says:

        Stop talking in acronyms, please!
        I’ve had to look up what GOAT means.
        In my life it’s always been a horned animal with a beard.
        Thank you.

        1. stubill says:

          I had to look it up myself about a month ago, it seems to be something the kids use. What’s funny though, is he probably had to look up acronym!

          I also have no idea what his post is trying to say, and this is the second time he’s posted the same thing.

          1. Break-on-through says:

            Acronym, good un, stick it to the young scoundrel,
            the little bugger, ha! ha!, ha!, ho!, oh! …ooh!, ooh!, arh! aaahh! …me back.

    3. kev says:

      Last time I asked someone that assuming we ignore Mustafi’s mistakes and look at defending ability alone isn’t he better than Chambers?He said Mustafi was better in that regard and the only excuse he could make for Chambers is that he was young.Mind you the same guy also wants Mustafi sold so badly.This should tell you how good Chambers is.In that, he’s not that good.
      Now let me also take people back to the transfer window before the 15/16 where Arsenal only signed Petr Cech.Do people remember that on the last day of that window we were linked to Sokratis and reports meant we were likely to sign him?Isn’t the 2015 Sokratis two times the current Sokratis?Yet even then people didn’t rate him how much more now.Our defence is a shambles right now.

      1. kev says:

        I’ve been an Arsenal fan long enough to realize that positivity and hard work isn’t are not necessarily equal to talent or quality.
        We should’ve cut our losses on players like Chambers and Xhaka.I say this because both players in one way or the other affect our defensive game.Sometomes when I see people putting a player like Xhaka in our best lineup I get so shocked.I mean do people think Arsenal is just any kind of team?At times I really felt sorry for Wenger because some of the players he trusted to perform were just so bad and let him down time and time again.I just hope this season they are not exposed so much o that teams will still be interested in them next season.

        1. jon fox says:

          Totally agree on Xhaka. He has just had two dreadful seasons and STILL so many dullards think he will suddenly come good, just because Wenger has gone. He is just not good enough and is slow of action , of thought and though he can make long passes when left with time , by weaker teams, he has ALREADY SHOWN he is no good . For goodness sake he must be a sell ASAP!

          1. kev says:

            Someone in the team must fail one way or the other for someone to excel.Unfortunately he’s failed so I think his tome is up.I’m tired of seeing the “AMN is too young comments.There are some young players who play above their age like Mbappe.The decision making and “ball sense” of Niles makes him fall into that category.To me he’s more than ready to start based on the matches I’ve seen him play at CM.His decision making and “ball sense” are far far above his age.

    4. khitb77 says:


      I’d say both Chambers and Holding are already far better than the self proclaimed “one of the best defenders in the world”.

  2. gotanidea says:

    Arsenal need good English players, which can be fulfilled by using Chambers and Holding as a part of three CBs in a 3-5-2 formation (or as a backup):

    ………..Chambers . Sokratis . Holding
    Lichtsteiner . Mkhitaryan . Ramsey . Monreal
    ……….Lacazette ……………. Aubameyang

    Because Arsenal do not have a dribbling master like Mbappe, Hazard, Isco, Traore and Messi, they might as well use a three-CB formation. But from the friendlies, Emery seems to want to use 4-3-3:

    Lichtsteiner . Chambers . Sokratis . Monreal
    …………….Ramsey ………….. Ozil
    Mkhitaryan …………………………..Aubameyang

  3. Chekwube Kwentua says:

    I still ask myself what Chambers and Holdings are still doing in Arsenal! With Wenger gone, I expected them to have been loaned out while we get one more proven-at-the-top defender. Arsenal should be thinking of being real title contenders, and with players like the aforementioned in the team,we will never get there!

    1. Declan says:

      Rediculous comment, anti Arsenal.

  4. Ian wrights bruva says:

    League cup games and back up for the first team is case of injury, give them another year or 2 and then move on if they don’t show some good signs of development, not impressed by what I have seen so far.

    1. Goonerboy says:

      Holding was Bolton’s best defender when they got relegated
      Chambers was a regular for Mboro when they relegated.
      Chambers was promising but not given enough chances at CB
      Holding also started well but faltered along the way.
      So it is indeed conundrum
      I say Holding NEEDS a loan, while Chambers NEEDS trust from the manager, do that and the conundrum is eased

      1. Declan says:

        They are not going anywhere, Emery has faith in them both.

      2. Midkemma says:

        Common factor in Chambers and Holding.
        They both looked like lesser CBs when being coached by Wenger for a prolonged period of time.

        I don’t say this to slate Wenger and jump on his back like a monkey, I respect what Wenger did and he did do a lot in his 1st decade which I will never forget 🙂
        He was human tho and no one is perfect, this was one of Wengers failings.

        1. kev says:

          To me Chambers is a good player but when I see people hoping he’d becomes world class just because he’s being coached by Emery makes me laugh.As I keep saying you can coach a player but you cannot instil talent into a player.The talent of Chambers is not enough to make him world class player.Im sorry but I feel any average pacy player will tear him apart or any player with decent dribbling ability would also give him a very good lesson.

          1. Tatgooner says:

            He shone against lukaku and griezzman though

          2. kev says:

            From what I watched Mavropanos was the one who for most of the match kept Lukaku quiet.He did well in the Ath. Madrid match but anytime I watch him in isolated situations he’s usually very poor.However,his concentration is very high I must say.

          3. Midkemma says:

            Who said he will be WC just cause Emery?
            Need to put words into other peoples posts so you can try and be valid.

            Chambers had a good year when playing regularly for Boro, he done well before we signed him and he had some very good games at CB for us… prior to Mavrop as well. I remember him doing well against City.

            “Im sorry but I feel any average pacy player will tear him apart”
            Feelings are what dude? Not logical and based in truth. I try my best to remove feelings from facts. Feelings would say Per couldn’t deal with pace at all but facts pointed to Per intelligence to counter it.

            Intelligence, this is something that coaching can bring. Education of positional awareness along with other defensive education.

            This is what Chambers has been lacking and we have seen from the WHOLE SQUAD a clueless look on them when we need to defend heavily. Chambers fault that the squad wasn’t coached into how to defend?

            You can claim that coaching will not make Chambers WC but I will say we do not know. Chambers has done well and he could improve and he could become WC, not like Adams had better physical attributes yet look at the legend he became.

            I already said Per but yeah.. Per, a World Cup winning CB… No pace and used his knowledge to deal with players he wasn’t physically built to beat.

            So stop with your “when I see people hoping he’d becomes world class just because he’s being coached by Emery makes me laugh.” as no one is claiming this, what is being said is that Chambers could (and should) improve under Emery and we should give our players some support…

            Afterall, are you a supporter or just a moaner?

  5. WALE says:

    Arsenal need an experience CB now.Chamber and holding can’t hold that position very well.

  6. Phil says:

    Play Alex Iwobi at centre back.The boy has everything.Searing pace.Unbelievable in the air.Crunching tackles.Visionary passing ability.A natural leader of men.And the new away kit will make him look really pretty.

    1. gotanidea says:

      That sounds like Ozil

    2. Goonerboy says:

      Weldone Phil…naughty you!?

    3. jon fox says:


  7. Gabo says:

    I start by disagreeing with those of you who say Kos has aged, nah, he tried to manage an Achilles heel problem – that affected practice & mobility.
    As for Chambers & Holding, I respectfully disagree to pair them cos they’re natives – let them earn their spot. They needed coaching, looks like they will be getting that.
    Mustafi has focus issues – couldn’t be motivated in a World Cup yr.
    With the gaffer opting to play pressing football & a defensive midfielder, we’ll concede less goals.

  8. I think they’ve been kept so we have enough
    Homegrown players in our squad.
    Sokratis is now to slow and Lichstener to
    Old better chambers and holding them
    Old foreign players. Maguire should have
    Been signed and not these old foreigners

  9. Innit says:

    I think our defense (well hope anyway) will improve by just having a quality defensive midfielder. When I was young I didn’t see the point of having one by having defenders too. But over the years Ive turned 180° and believe it’s a necessity

    All the PL champions have had a top DM or CM with excellent defensive skills ie Kante, Fernandino, Matic, Toure, Carrick, Scholes, Keane, Viera, Mekelele

    We needed someone in front of the defenders to break up play, cover side line to side line, retrieve the ball etc.

    I think Torreira will make our defenders and GK look better

  10. Mobella says:

    Why can’t we sell everything and start new. The players, the stadium, London Conley. The way some our fans bitching when a club drop 50m or more for a player is fcuking mental. Liverpool dropping 67m for a goalie and suddenly everything good Emery has doing suddenly become not enough. One even said Mane is way better than Lacazette. We need 4 no 5 no 6 players is what you read everyday. I like Anderson to be honest but wanting my club to pay that much for him? no way. Can he save a goal? If he can definitely yes. A keeper that cost that much should go a season without conceding in my book. He must a Messi/ronaldoseque goal keeper. People should chill, price don’t play ball player is and any and every factors can make a player a hit or a flop.

    1. Arsene is Out says:

      If we were doing the type of business that Liverpool did in the last 12 months and they were doing the type of business we did in the last 12 months. We would all be laughing at them as a second rate team who cant pull top players, and that my Gunner brother is a fact.

      Now this doesnt mean that they will be great and we will suck, but on past experience we can assume that the team with the better players will usually perform better. I would be ecstatic to finish above Liverpool but I wouldn’t bet on it. Would you?

      If John Fox wants to give me $1000 if Liverpool finishes above us, I would sadly take that :)))

  11. Arsene is Out says:

    Look we dont have any super defenders, we didnt have any and to be honest we havent bought any. But we have a couple of nasty, tough older and experienced new guys in Licht and Papa and a few promising guys in Chambers, Holding and Mavros. I think if this unit is well coached and given some time they will come good. Also to have a DM like Torreira in front of them will make their lives easier.

    1. Waal2waal says:

      …we’ve no alternative now but to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope we find a formation that concedes less than than before. its true we “dont have any super defenders…etc”. the match up of the new greek pair and kolasinac will appear formidable at least and chambers will hopefully dig deep and find something in his character to help us turn the corner as far as our pretty woeful backline is concerned – we need to see a marked improvement.

      1. Phil says:

        WELL COACHED is what makes a defence.The players must of course have ability but if the defensive unit is Coached and drilled then this alone will give us more than we have had at the back for many many seasons.
        George Graham coached probably one of the finest back fours/fives out of a mixture of home grown players (O’Leary and Adams) with low cost additions from lower league clubs in Dixon Bould and Winterburn.
        It’s the Coach who makes it work.We have players with real ability that have been part of a defence that became a laughing stock last season.Emery seemed to recognise this and has set out to rectify it immediately.
        I can only wonder why our previous Manager who was SACKED did not feel there was anything wrong.

        1. jon fox says:

          I can easily answer your last sentence question as follows: “Our previous manager” hated the very thought of any of his teams ever having to defend. He was a mad attacking idealist, out of touch with the reality of how the sport is played and never accepted the fact that there is always a balance to be struck between attack and defence. Despite having the George Graham defence- Arsenals best ever, by far, as a perfect example and winning many honours whilst Georges highly coached(by George) defence was still there week after week doing great, Wenger STILL never believed in defence and tolerated it only as a means to an end. He did not need to spend on defenders at the start and could thus spend ALL HIS TIME AND FUNDS ON ATTACKING PLAYERS. This made his attacking mania even worse and, ironically, lengthened the time before he was found wanting years later. It was patently obvious for a whole decade at least, that he had no time for defence and the wonder is only that he conned so many fans for so long before he was sacked. He NEVER conned me though and I could see way back that he was only half a manager and that he NEVER accepted the need for vital strength and quality in defence , once Georges men had all retired. His LONG succession of deadbeat CB’s and DM’s was a sick and dismal joke and harmed our club immensely. I STILL wake up each morning thrilled to think he has FINALLY gone.

          1. Phil says:

            Me too-just the thought of someone and something DIFFERENT after all these years makes the pre season interesting.Mow Wenger is coming out saying he stayed at Arsenal TOO LONG!!!FFS 88% of the Clubs fanbase was telling him that for the best part of a decade.

  12. perfect says:

    Sell them both and get a decent defender..

  13. kumssa says:

    sell chambers keep holding

  14. Simon Williams says:

    Biggest new asset to our defence is def Torreira!

    Kos – still very good. But can’t assume he’ll be available this year.

    Agree need to find a stick with best pairing st the back.

    For me that has to Mustafi. He’s not perfect – but a good aggressive experienced CB with reasonable pace.

    Sok – looks too similar to Mustafi to play together. He looks like bench material only to me.

    So I’d pair MUSTAFI & HOLDING

    Holding has good calm temperament. Had many great games when getting played regularly. Young and will improve further. He dealt with Costa great – and that’s a difficult opponent.

    Think they are good complement to each other. In both aggression, experience, hold in defence vs go win the ball.

    Hope that proves to be the case

    1. Papy says:

      Saying Sokratis is bad based on a single match against lower league opposition in a friendly/charity game.Wooooooowwwwww
      Just calm down please.
      Won’t be surprised if you write back after the Athletico match hailing him as best defender since Campbell

  15. Grandad says:

    With respect Simon, how could you possibly play Mustafi who ,along with xhaka must rank as Wenger,s worst buys.Play the young guys please.

  16. khitb77 says:

    I’m a firm believer that with the right manager players like Holding and Chambers can flourish and become established centre backs at the club.

    Wenger’s track record with young defenders (in particular) was predictable – start off well, gain rave reviews and international call-up, then suffer from lack of confidence after a few poor performances and never recover.

    Hopefully Emery will be able to develop the potential that was seen in the players in the first place and they’ll grow into better players!

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