When Arsenal bought Mathieu Debuchy to the club, many thought that was it for Arsenal in that position. Debuchy was one of those Premier League experienced right-backs who would cover the position of the departed Bacary Sagna, and would pave the way for Jenkinson and Bellerin to shine once he’s past it. Debuchy, essentially, was enough to form a perfect blend of short-term and long-term fix.
Arsene Wenger doesn’t think so, though. Official confirmation is that Wenger has tied the ribbon on the Chambers deal, for a fee reported to be close to £16m. The Southampton full-back, touted to be a key member of England’s next “golden” generation, is the second right-back Wenger has purchased during this transfer window even though we currently have at the Carl Jenkinson.
While there are quite a few excited about Chambers, there are rather puzzling aspects to this signing. At £16m, his price seems fairly steep, and would send mixed signals to Jenkinson, who was awarded a long-term contract not less than two years ago. There could also be the argument made that at a combined cost of £25m, neither Debuchy nor Chambers have been a shoe-in for Sagna, while someone like Seamus Coleman – for instance – would have packed his bags for North London at £20m.
Debuchy, contrary to popular opinion, is a long way from being a like-to-like Sagna replacement. People had criticized Sagna’s attacking playing style while at Arsenal, which was actually a blessing in disguise.
The forwards Sagna played behind – usually Theo Walcott, and recently Chamberlain and Cazorla – aren’t players who are the best at tracking back and helping Sagna out. Yet Sagna managed his defensive work ably, which, unfortunately had an adverse impact on his offensive play. He was a rock on the right defensive channel, and inadvertently gave the wingers he played behind, freedom to take care of the attacking part of the right channel.
Debuchy would not do that. He’s a full-back who tends to go forward every time he can. It’s harmful to the team, because players like Walcott and Ox haven’t got the workrate to help out their defensive compatriot, a trait that surfaced due to a certain reliability on Sagna’s unwavering defensive duties on the right side. The team hasn’t adapted itself to such a scenario, and thus, it wouldn’t mean that Debuchy would be a square peg for a round hole.
Be that as it may, Debuchy would be a four year fix. Once the guy is either sold or let go on a Bosman, Wenger would be left with Jenkinson (assuming he stays) and Chambers to prioritize from. Now, it seems like Wenger has probably decided to make Chambers his future No. 2, a position he had earlier thought Jenkinson would inherit. A manager like Arsene Wenger would not spunk £16m on a youngster if he didn’t see some real talent hidden away there, and a definite long-term future at the club.
However, a manager like Arsene Wenger would not offer a youngster a long-term deal, and then relegate him to second-choice when he’s in prime position to pick up the mantle. Did Wenger merely offer Jenkinson a long-term deal because he was part of the British core, and wanted to complete the set?
Another angle would be that Wenger sees Chambers as a centre half rather than a full-back. The Mertesacker-Koscielny axis, reliable as it is, would plausibly wear off in two years, which is when someone like Chambers could be a viable option. Wenger’s quotes back this up.
“He [Chambers] can play at centre-back, right-back and central midfield. I hope he will give us competition for the players in these three positions.”
This angle has a bizarre inexplicability to it too, because Wenger would never spend £16m to buy a player for a fourth-choice centre back. He’d rather have Johan Djourou back.
Chambers’ versatility raises Arsenal as many options, as it does questions. For us, it’s a healthy problem to sort out in our minds, hunting for a plausible solution. For the boss, he may have solved it already.