Sunday, December 4, 2022

Alexis & Mustafi still going + Calum Chambers deserves an Arsenal chance

The full effects of the off-season are well and truly upon us now. They’re most keenly felt after the weekend when the most nothing happens. That’s very much the case today, especially if you’re not disposed to the Confederations Cup to give you your football fix.

The news from there is that Chile go into the semi-finals so Alexis Sanchez can play another game. They’ll face Portugal, while Shkodran Mustafi and German are in the other semi against Mexico. In looking this up, I also discovered that there’s a third/fourth place play-off game, which must surely be the most pointless match in the football calendar.

It’s a pointless tournament in the first place, barely anyone cares who actually wins, let alone comes third or fourth. Still, it’s good for FIFA to milk the players dry then wring their hands as if they actually care when the subject of player welfare is raised.

To make it even a little bit entertaining those involved in the third/fourth place game should be required to play in ostrich costumes (with those fake legs hanging over the side). Give the people what they really want.

In the other football this summer, England have reached the semi-finals of the European U21 Championships, with two Arsenal men involved. Rob Holding might have made his breakthrough and excited everyone this season, but it’s Calum Chambers who is doing the business for Aidy Boothroyd’s side.

While Holding has yet to play a single minute, Chambers have played the full 90 in all three games, and he’s building on what was likely to have been a season in which he learned a lot. He did well for Boro, despite the fact they ended up relegated, and as an experience I’m sure it was something that was beneficial for him.

When a player goes out on loan, you’d think and expect that there’s some line of communication back to the parent club, but with Arsenal there’s definitely room for improvement in that regard. There are reports, of course, but it’s often a case of out of sight, out of mind. Perhaps it’s viewed as character building, leave them to their own devices and see how they get on, but Chambers acquitted himself well in the north-east.

His Arsenal future remains unclear, but he says he’s coming back to us a better player than when he left:

This season has been so important for me, playing games as a centre-back. The experience I have gained in that position just from playing is so valuable to me. I just feel it’s just pushed me on another level.

I’ll be going back to Arsenal for pre-season and doing the best I can and seeing what happens.

It’s easy to forget what an exciting prospect he looked when we first signed him, and I wonder how well he was managed after that difficult day at Swansea when he got torn to shreds by Jefferson Montero. It’s the kind of thing that can happen to a young player, and even on the day I remember thinking we didn’t do him any favours by leaving him so exposed.

It was a performance which caused Arsene Wenger to lose some faith in him, and it told us one thing with real certainty: Chambers is not a right-back (or an emergency one at best). He is, however, a centre-half who is still in the very early stages of his career, and I don’t think the Arsenal door should be closed for him at this point.

Assuming we’re staying with three at the back, we’ll need real depth in that position, and I think it’s a formation that suits some of the players we have better than the traditional back four with two central defenders. Koscielny and Mertesacker are into the September of their careers (based on their ages), Gabriel is currently injured, leaving us with Holding, Mustafi and Chambers.

I’d like to see him given another chance, I think he’s a good player who looks to have gone away and done exactly what you want a loan player to do. He played regularly, he performed well, he rebuilt his confidence and comes back to us a more rounded and experienced footballer.

He also cites Per Mertesacker as a big influence, saying:

He was almost like my mentor for a couple of years. I have never seen a player so professional and dedicated. Every little thing he could do he did. There were times when he would be looking at me and saying ‘you could do this’ and that’s rubbed off.

That’s helped me realise the little things you do, the tiny little one or two per cents, get you where you want to be.

And what we saw this season is that you shouldn’t write people off too soon. The BFG reminded people there’s life in those long legs yet with an epic FA Cup final performance, and if he’s given the opportunity maybe Chambers can show us why we were prepared to pay Southampton £16m three years ago (at the time a really substantial fee for us to pay for such a young player).

Right, that’s it for this morning. James and I will have an Arsecast Extra for you today, so if you have any questions or topics you’d like us to discuss, send them to @gunnerblog and @arseblog with the hashtag #arsecastextra.

We’ll have that ready for you around lunchtime. Until then.

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