Last summer, Calum Chambers made his dream move to Arsenal. The Gunners paid a fee that could rise up to £16m, a lot for a 19 year old that made only 25 senior appearances for Southampton.
When Arsene Wenger signed him, the Frenchman said he wanted Chambers to be a centre-back. He started his career in that vein getting a run of games in the middle of defence when Per Mertesacker was recovering from the World Cup and Laurent Koscielny was struggling with an achilles problem.
The young Englishman was extremely impressive at centre-back, but due to Mathieu Debuchy’s injury he was moved to his natural right-back position. He got an extended run in the side at right-back, but was eventually dropped after his nightmare against Jefferson Montero.
After having his appearances limited this season (three starts and four substitute appearances in all competitions), Arsene Wenger says that he will be helping to fill the hole left by Francis Coquelin’s injury at defensive midfielder. When talking about his central midfield options, the Frenchman said, “We have players who play in that position, like Flamini. We have players like Chambers (too), because he has been educated as a central midfielder.” (Quote via Arsenal.com) He got 10 minutes there against Dynamo Zagreb and is poised to play in midfield more in the near future. After less than 18 months at Arsenal Chambers has played three different positions. This begs the question, is Calum Chambers falling into the trap of being too versatile for his own good?
Versatility is a trait that is rightfully praised in players, but it can be both a blessing and a curse on young players. Many young players, especially at bigger clubs, play a bunch of different positions, but are never able to nail down that one position that they’ve mastered and it ends up hurting them in the long term. They become a jack of many trades, but a master of none.
The prime example of this in the Premier League is another English centre-back, Phil Jones. Manchester United bought Jones at the same age (19), and for a very similar fee (£16.5) as Arsenal bought Chambers for. He was touted as a future England centre-back at Blackburn, but he was used at centre-back, full-back, and as a central midfielder in his first season. Now in his fifth season at United, Jones is still yet to nail down a position. While injuries have had something to do with that, the versatility of the 23 year old means he’s been shifted around the pitch in his five years.
In his first year plus at Arsenal, Chambers has made 13 starts at centre-back, 16 at right-back, and one at defensive midfield. Versatility is a good quality and Chambers is still young at only 20 years of age, but he needs to lock down his long term position soon. He needs to avoid falling into the trap of becoming the team’s Swiss Army knife as opposed to their number one centre-back.