Calum Chambers is still adjusting to life at Arsenal

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When I saw the line-up for Arsenal's match against Liverpool, my initial words were 'what is going on?'

I was not alone. Many fans were confused.

In Arsene Wenger's pre-match press conference and interviews over the weekend, the injured players he spoke about had never included first-choice centre-back pairing Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, yet mysteriously, over the space of two days, both were ruled out. While illness and a back injury overwhelmed them respectively, one young man prepared for his first game of the season.


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The main reason for many fans' worries were the inexperience of Chambers and partner Gabriel. Whether they could handle the brutality of striker Christian Benteke was the biggest doubt, but they managed to get a clean sheet, although this was more due to Petr Cech's heroics in goal.

Still, it was another test for young defender Chambers, who is not only looking to nail down a place in the first 11, but who is yet to find his best position. He arrived from Southampton a right-back, after moving from midfield in their youth teams, with experience at centre-half for England's underage squads.

The majority of fans, as well as manager Arsene Wenger, see his future in the heart of defence, though for different reasons. While Hector Bellerin's emergence last season hugely contributed to this, his lack of pace is at the heart of critics concerns. This was exposed in last season's loss to Swansea, when Jefferson Montero initially introduced himself to the league as a threat with his speed and skill, something that Chambers never even got close to matching.

When looking at his strengths, it seems that he would be suited to life in the middle, where his height, reading of the game and technical skills learnt in his secondary positions are his biggest advantages. This was highlighted by his strong start to last season, where he partnered Koscielny in the absence of the World Cup winning Mertesacker.

He was moved around the place during the rest of the season, where he featured at right back, and even returned to midfield against his first team, Southampton. After this, he did not return to the heights of his early season form, and was knocked down the pecking order by the increasingly impressive Bellerin, and new signing Gabriel. 

Now, he has a point to prove. After gaining his first England caps, some would say too early, he is still considered as a player with a lot of potential, but in the wrong place to fulfil it. In line to become the spine of the England Under-21 team along with Tottenham's Eric Dier, the consensus is that the competition at Arsenal is too much for him to break through, especially as he is in the process of changing position for the third time in his short career.

Wenger is keen to keep him at the club, but for me it is the wrong decision. Wenger is predictable. No player has managed to break the Mertesacker/Koscielny bond, and no player is likely to until either one of them leaves, or a player of Wenger's standard arrives.

What puzzles me is how neither Gabriel or Chambers, who Wenger has laid praise on for their potential, have not been given enough games to prove themselves as heirs to the throne, ready to stand in when needed.

In Chambers case, it is imperative that he gets the game-time to fine tune his skills, where he can learn as a centre-back how to be a centre-back. Look at John Stones, for example. The world (bar Chelsea fans) are crying for him to stay as an Everton player, where he can play regularly and improve faster, rather than wait for both John Terry and Gary Cahill leave the club. The same goes for young Chambers, who has plenty of time to turn into the world class defender Wenger expects him to be.

It will be a big season for Chambers, despite him being not far into his career. Whether he will follow the exodus of youth players out on loan remains to be seen. It will mainly depend on the availability of Koscielny and Mertesacker before the international break.

What is for sure is that if there are no signs of improvement by January, there will be increased speculation about his short-term future at the club.

Calum Chambers
Premier League

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