When David Ornstein speaks, Arsenal fans listen – and that was no exception when the BBC journalist took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to break the latest Gunners news. Ornstein claimed that Arsenal centre-back Calum Chambers is set to sign a new four-year deal at the Emirates, with new head coach Unai Emery eager for the 23-year-old to challenge for a starting spot in the Arsenal team.
It’s news which came as a surprise to some sections of the Arsenal fan base. Some had expected Chambers to be sold over the summer after failing to hold down a consistent place in the starting lineup since his 2014 move from Southampton. However, the news of his impending contract renewal has changed matters.
The biggest problem for new head coach Unai Emery to solve at Arsenal is the club’s defence. Last season, the Gunners conceded more goals than any other side in the Premier League’s top eight and almost twice as many as champions Manchester City. This is the main reason why the Gunners finished sixth in the league last season and why they are the massive 25/1 outsiders to win the league on Betway as of 29 June. Many of these goals conceded came as a result of defensive errors with many Arsenal fans quick to aim the blame at goalkeeper Petr Cech and centre-back Shkodran Mustafi. Bernd Leno will surely replace Cech in the Arsenal goal but the back four carries more unknowns.
Per Mertesacker ended his seven-year spell as an Arsenal player when he retired from the game and there are huge question marks over Laurent Koscielny. Aside from a worrying drop in his performance levels, the Frenchman also picked up a serious injury towards the end of last season which will keep him out until November at least. That just leaves Mustafi as the only centre-back at the club aged over 25 and it wouldn’t totally out of the question for Emery to make the former German international available for transfer.
Nacho Monreal can play there if required but a lot of the defensive burden will presumably fall on the shoulders of Arsenal’s young defenders. Rob Holding’s progression has stalled despite a good start and there is considerable excitement surrounding Konstantinos Mavropanos but neither player has really convinced over an extended period of time. Sokratis Papastathopoulos has joined the club from Borussia Dortmund but who else will play?
This is perhaps where Calum Chambers comes in. It feels like a long time ago but the Englishman actually had a fantastic start to his Arsenal career. He made the move from Southampton back in 2014 and was immediately thrown into the starting lineup at the Emirates. Originally a right-back, Chambers switched to the centre at Arsenal and put in a string of impressive performances to fill in for the injured Per Mertesacker. That went on for several weeks but his form – and confidence – appeared to wane. That came to a head when he put in a memorably poor performance against Swansea City’s Jefferson Montero while playing at right-back.
Chambers failed to really get back into the Arsenal first-team after that. A loan spell to Middlesbrough in the 2016-17 season helped but after that, his time at Arsenal appeared to be over. The Gunners and Crystal Palace were in advanced negotiations in July 2017 but the deal broke down and Chambers stayed at the Emirates. Most of his appearances last season came in European and cup competitions and while his performance level did appear to lift in the latter months of the campaign, many expected it to be his last.
That will not be the case with new head coach Unai Emery eager to keep Chambers around. He certainly has the technical ability of the sort of ball-playing centre-back which Arsenal need but there are some question marks over his mental capacity and overall consistency. If Arsenal do complete the signing of Sokratis Papastathopoulos then the Greek international’s imposing physical playing style could complement Chambers.
It will be fascinating to see how the Englishman develops over the next few years. Calum Chambers has shown signs of becoming a truly impressive centre-back but his Arsenal career stalled and there was a feeling that he would have needed to leave to continue his development. However, the change in management, coaching staff and playing style could provide Calum Chambers with the fresh start his career needed.