Football Features

Calum Chambers: How Arsenal’s multi-tasking marauder is making an unexpected impact

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 16:41, 25 September 2019

Arsenal have won the last three games in a row, their best form of the season so far.

They beat Eintracht Frankfurt away from home in the Europa League, Aston Villa at home in the Premier League, and finally Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup. They scored 11 goals and conceded just two. They’re playing well, so who do you think has the greatest goal involvement for the Gunners over the last three games?

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? Nope. Two goals. Bukayo Saka, the young starlet who thrilled everyone in the Europa League? One goal and two assists, three in total. Nicolas Pépé? His goal involvement is two (one goal and one assist). In fact Gabriel Martinelli, Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock also have a goal involvement of two, whilst Rob Holding has scored once and Héctor Bellerin has a single assist.

No, the player with the greatest goal involvement over Arsenal’s winning streak is none other than Calum Chambers. The young Englishman. Well, he’s 24 but still seems young because he’s barely played for Arsenal over the last few years. He’s been out on loan, mostly with very little success. This season he’s stayed with Arsenal and it looks like a good thing he did.

Chambers’ success shouldn’t be too surprising, after all the Englishman looked Arsenal’s best centre-back during pre-season where he played the majority of matches next to Sokratis. The arrival of David Luiz has blocked his path centrally somewhat, but he has remained ready at all times. And it was actually full-back, not centre-back, where he has made his impression.

Despite previously looking so much better in the middle (especially for England U21s and Middlesbrough) Unai Emery called on him against Aston Villa at half-time. The Gunners were losing 0-1 at the Emirates and had been reduced to 10 men thanks to Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ red. So Chambers stepped into the breach. You would have expected him to put in a quiet display, keeping things solid at the back, and for the most part that’s what he did.

But when there was just 10 minutes left and the Gunners had been 1-2 down for the last 20 minutes, and the fans were getting anxious, Chambers popped up inside the Villa box to collect a lovely Matteo Guendouzi cross. Well, he didn’t collect it as much as he instantly volleyed it back across goal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to nod home; only for Neil Taylor to stick a leg out and block the cross. Tyrone Mings’ headed clearance was poor, however, and Chambers stole in ahead of Taylor, controlled the ball with one touch and lifted it into the back the net with his next. A massive equaliser that gave the Gunners momentum (they bagged their winner mere minutes later).

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This earned him a start at right-back in the EFL Cup against Nottingham Forest, and after half an hour, guess what? He was at it again. Reiss Nelson played a diagonal pass to him and without hesitation Chambers shaped himself and struck it beautifully back across goal. This time the cross evaded defenders and Gabriel Martinelli nodded it home. A big assist to give the Gunners the lead and calm nerves.

As the game progressed, Kieran Tierney had to go off at left-back. The Scot was making his first start of the season so could only manage 77 minutes. He went off for Héctor Bellerin, himself making his first appearance this campaign. Except Bellerin is a right-back, so in order to keep things in order Chambers had to switch to left-back.

Again, you would expect the player, nominally a centre-back, to sit and just hold. After all Bellerin set-up Joe Willock for Arsenal’s third literally as soon as he came on. 3-0 is comfortable. But Chambers showed the scale of his ambition by continuing to run forward and offer width even on his wrong side. And with five minutes remaining in the game, Bukayo Saka played him in down the left and Chambers played a measured cutback into the box where Reiss Nelson showed up to make it 4-0.

Chambers picked up a third assist late in the game, although it’s a bit of a cheeky one as he merely played a nice pass into Gabriel Martinelli about 35 yards from the Forest goal. The Brazilian then went on a mazy run and bent one into the top corner, so yes, technically it was an assist albeit Martinelli did the vast majority of the work himself.

Still, a direct goal involvement of three is absurd for a centre-back playing out of position at right-back and left-back; to say nothing about how well he defended his flanks as well. The assists were a perfect example of the unbelievable value that Chambers can bring to Arsenal’s squad. He may not be their starter in any position but his ability to fill all of the positions and to do so at a reasonably high level will make him invaluable – especially given Arsenal’s propensity to pick up injuries.

He’s a solid centre-back, nothing spectacular but he just gets on with it. In fact he is perhaps a better partner for either Sokratis OR David Luiz than the pair are for each other – given they are both prone to moments of, shall we say, loose defending. Then Chambers can be a solid right-back (moreso than Ainsley Maitland-Niles who very much looks like a midfielder playing out of position) and apparently is even passable on the left where, in a back four, he may offer more defensive protection than Sead Kolasinac.

Basically, Calum Chambers is a really good, really versatile defender for a side that struggles to defend and has squad depth issues. This multi-tasking maniac can cover so many of the holes that pockmark the Arsenal defence; he is the kind of talent that Unai Emery should be using as much as he possibly can; as this last week has shown he can be the difference between glory and defeat.