It was announced on Monday that Middlesbrough had agreed to loan Calum Chambers from Arsenal, a move that was well received by both fan-bases. The newly promoted North East club need more defensive cover and the player needs first team football in order to develop further. This is unlikely to come at Arsenal, despite their lack of numbers in defensive areas. He started the opening day match against Liverpool, but Laurent Koscielny has returned and Shkodran Mustafi is set to sign, which reduces Chambers’ hopes of playing. His drop down the pecking order since joining Arsenal has been remarkable and a move was required to get him back to the form that led to his England debut in 2014.
During his first season at Arsenal, Chambers featured in 23 league matches and looked to be one of the best young defenders in the Premier League. He adjusted quickly to life at a top four club and broke into the England squad soon after joining. Chambers was seen as a right back when he moved to the Gunners, but he is now a centre back and looks to suit the role well. He is strong and dominates in the air, while his positioning improved with every match when he was playing regularly for Arsenal.
His defensive contribution reduced during his second season at Arsenal and he was seen as a weak link when he played. Chambers was used less frequently, starting only twice in the league and the lack of regular football affected his level of performance. He regressed significantly and looked a shadow of the player that broke into the England squad just a year previously. Chambers’ lack of first-team football was a result of the consistency of both Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, but he has suffered from a season on the sidelines. Rob Holding has been signed and is now above Chambers as the third choice centre back, which has forced the former Southampton player to leave the club.
A move to Middlesbrough suits Chambers as he will be given more first team football. Moreover, he will get to play under Aitor Karanka who is excellent at coaching defenders as he has shown since taking over at the Riverside Stadium. He has been signed to compete in defensive areas and his versatility will make him an asset for Karanka, as he can cover both full back positions and at centre back. There is great competition for places at the club, but if he can recapture the form that earned him an England call-up, he will quickly become the first name on the team-sheet.
As for Arsenal, there will be concerns about the decision to let him go as they are still short at centre back. They will only have Rob Holding as cover until Per Mertesacker recovers, which means they will be just one injury away from another crisis in the position. The decision to let Chambers go may mean that the club will be signing another centre back alongside Mustafi, but Arsenal fans will know that this is a hopeful view. Wenger is known for showing belief in his players and he will feel that he has the option to field Nacho Monreal if absolutely necessary.
This loan move has developed out of nowhere and there will be many more deals like this before the deadline. Clubs will begin to make their fringe players available for loan as soon as they complete their incoming business. For Chambers, his career has stalled over the past year and he needed to move. He has the potential to develop into a fine Premier League centre half, but he needs regular first team football. Although he will have to earn the right to start at Middlesbrough, he will have a better opportunity than he did at Arsenal and he must take it.