Fulham are currently in the midst of an extremely disappointing season. Accumulating just 17 points after 29 league matches, the Cottagers have a pretty good chance of being relegated to the second tier when the current campaign ends. However, one of the few bright spots for the west London outfit has been Calum Chambers. The loanee from Arsenal has been a solid addition to the struggling side, yet he wasn’t a hit from the beginning of his time at the club.
Normally deployed as a defender, Chambers began his season across London in the center back role. After poor displays against Crystal Palace and Tottenham, the occasional England international then lost his starting place in central defense. At the time, both then manager Slaviša Jokanović and Fulham fans alike were fairly unimpressed with the Arsenal man. The turning point in Chambers’ season was certainly the 4-2 defeat to Cardiff City in October. The defender was tormented by winger Josh Murphy, so much so that Chambers was substituted at half time by his manager.
It was after the Cardiff match that Chambers was then moved into midfield. While the experiment did not exactly turn Fulham’s season around as a whole, it did show that the defender can be confidently deployed in a midfield role. The defensive midfielder position, however, is not necessarily something new to Chambers. Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger gave the usual defender two starts in midfield, as well as a handful of substitute appearances in the middle of the pitch between 2015 and 2016. Nevertheless, success at this position is certainly a relatively new experience for Chambers.
Although his team is still struggling, Chambers is putting together a solid campaign since the positional switch. Statistically, his numbers are both impressive and surprising. The 24-year-old Englishman is averaging more interceptions per 90 minutes in the new position than Idrissa Gueye and Wilfried Ndidi and as many clearances as Manchester City’s Fernandinho.
Per 90 minutes (at least 10 apps in position)
So with Chambers playing so well in midfield with Fulham, the question remains: what should Arsenal do with him? Positionally, right back is most likely out of the question for the Gunners. Though he may have started out in this role, lack of pace is a serious concern. Players like Jefferson Montero and the aforementioned Murphy, among others, have previously torn Chambers to shreds on the flanks. Center back, however, is still an option for the player.
The 6’0” defender/midfielder played very well in central defense while on loan at Middlesbrough during the 2016/17 campaign. He also performed nicely in the position for the Gunners last season as well. And, of course, now defensive midfield could be an area that Chambers can play for Arsenal heading forward.
This versatility could be a significant advantage for Chambers. Being able to play multiple positions fairly well would be a beneficial asset to his parent club. Defensive/central midfield is, however, a packed place for Arsenal at the moment. The Gunners already have Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and Mohamed Elneny fighting for time in the middle of the pitch. However, Arsenal brass could very well sell either Chambers and Elneny, as they are somewhat similar players.
Not only are the two players alike stylistically, but they also have similar wages and contract lengths as well. Chambers is, however, two years younger and, as stated before, is the more versatile player.
Arsenal could also choose to capitalize on selling the player with more value. Chambers would most likely garner a higher transfer fee than Elneny. Plus, it remains to be seen how much playing time Chambers will receive next season at either center back or defensive midfield. Nevertheless, these are good problems to have for the Gunners. The club will either add a versatile player to the squad that has a reasonable contract, or raise funds to buy a player in a different position. It appears to be a win-win situation for Arsenal.
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