Arsene Wenger is not a man renowned for splashing the cash. Having a keen eye for talent, the French manager is often termed as one of the most astute operators in the transfer market. After losing Bacary Sagna to Manchester City, he moved quickly to sign another Frenchman Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle for a fee believed to be in the region of £8 million. However, it came as a surprise to many when the club formally announced that they had acquired the services of Calum Chambers from Southampton for a generous fee of £12 million + add-ons because the club already has Carl Jenkinson in its ranks. Chambers is a versatile teenager who can play at centre-back, right-back and central midfield.
While the additions will look to settle into the new environment as soon as possible, it is being understood that Jenkinson might have to look for greener pastures.
Coming off a good 2013-14 season, the right-backs at his disposal provide Arsene with the kind of depth required to compete for more than one trophy. Wenger will look to get a few good years out of the 29 year old Debuchy and hope that he can also contribute to the learning of the 19 year old Chambers. Though Debuchy is expected to make the starting eleven at the beginning of the season, many expect Chambers to provide healthy competition for the spot. So how do they stand when compared to each other based on previous season’s performances?
When it comes to defending, Debuchy comes out on top. His performance can be attributed to his pace, technical ability, physicality and an ability to read the game better. He has a higher percentage of wins in 50-50 challenges when compared to Chambers, whether on the ground or in the air. At 5 ’10 he isn’t amongst the tallest of players, but has always been renowned for his ability to win aerial duels. Chambers isn’t too far behind Debuchy and would look to build on his technical skills and confidence to win a higher number of 50-50 challenges.
Debuchy played more minutes than Chambers and made a significantly higher number of tackles. But he wasn’t as successful as Chambers and won nearly 10% lesser tackles. However, to his credit, Debuchy did come to Newcastle’s rescue with 6 successful last man tackles, the highest by any player in the season. While that might reflect well on Debuchy’s composure, it is interesting to note that he did receive 8 yellow cards and 1 red card (for the horrific challenge on Yacob). In comparison, Chambers surprisingly didn’t pick up a single card through the season.
Vision and the ability to read the game is an absolute must to become a top-class defender. With the kind of experience Debuchy has, it is only understandable that he was more successful at interceptions. Debuchy made almost double the number of interceptions made by Chambers and these are a function of vision and anticipation developed with experience in top-flight football.
While it can be argued that Chambers was more effective winning possession in mid and attacking third, it can be attributed to the pressing play under Pochettino at Southampton. On the other hand, Newcastle were often forced to sit deeper in defence with defenders having to make vital contributions in the defending third of the pitch.
When it comes to passing, Chambers was more effective. He attempted more passes per 90 minutes (46 passes per 90 minutes as against Debuchy’s 36) at a higher success rate of 79% than his peer’s 73%. He was able to pick his teammates for a pass more often at a success of 72% in the final third, which is considerably higher than Debuchy’s 53%. While Debuchy has won accolades as an attacking full-back, Chambers would be a good alternative as he is more incisive with his passing and wins possession more often in the attacking third.
In the last season, Chambers made more dribbles than Debuchy, despite having played lesser games, something that can be attributed to the player’s willingness to take on his opponents, though he wasn’t as successful as Debuchy in percentage terms. Also, Chambers was more effective with his crosses having made a successful cross every 90 minutes as against 166 minutes for Debuchy.
Though both the players created 2 clear-cut chances, it was Debuchy who provided 3 assists to Chambers none. Also, Debuchy had a solitary goal to his name, something that Chambers didn’t manage. When placed in isolation, the 3 assists and the solitary goal would have us believe that Debuchy is a far better attacking option. However, a closer look at other stats reveals that there isn’t a lot to separate the two.
In attack, Debuchy does seem livelier with 3 assists, but on the overall, Chambers impresses more. At 19, he might not be talked of as highly as his former Southampton team-mates, but does look a good prospect. He would definitely benefit from Debuchy’s experience as a right-back and should look to learn the intricacies of the game from the Frenchman.
When analysed in-depth, Debuchy presents a better option defensively than Chambers. He has the required skill and experience to bolster the Gunner’s defence substantially. On the other hand, though he might not be as acclaimed as his peer for his attacking prowess, Chambers will add teeth to the already sharp Arsenal attack and seems a better option.
Conclusively, I am led to believe that Debuchy will start the season at right-back. However, should Wenger provide Chambers with a decent number of opportunities to showcase his talent, Chambers will be the first choice right-back at the Emirates by the end of the season.