When he joined Arsenal last week, Rob Holding mentioned that a major factor in his decision was Arsène’s record in promoting youth. If reports are to be believed, that may be put to the test sooner than any of us expected.
Per Mertesacker’s omission from the tour squad which left for the USA is due to injury. Depending upon whom you believe, the German is out for anything up to five months. Which for Arsenal, means the rest of the season due to the niggling injuries which he will inevitably suffer on his return.
Until there’s official confirmation of the extent of Mertesacker’s injury, it’s pure speculation but underlines the Wenger’s dilemma.
Notionally, he has four centre backs. For the opening game against Liverpool, two of them are already ruled out. Laurent Koscielny is not due back in training for another week; there’s no way he should be in contention for the starting line-up.
Which means a combination of Gabriel and Chambers. Holding could make his début but it’s risky and bearing in mind the slating youngsters get for mistakes, unfair and ill-advised. He could surprise us all and play a starring role, be accomplished and unfazed by the sudden leap in competition. Could is a powerful word.
It would be no surprise if Arsène didn’t delve into the transfer market. There’s speculation linking us with Mustafi but that arose after Mertesacker’s injury and reeks of journalistic opportunism. More likely in my view, is that Chambers will be given a chance to partner Gabriel and one of them will make way when Koscielny returns.
The past has shown us that Wenger has no qualms about using a full back in the centre if needed and indeed, Nacho Monreal has been that solution before. With Kieran Gibbs still at the club, there’s no reason to believe Arsène won’t rely on that option and not spending money.
A familiar refrain that he doesn’t want to “kill” someone’s career will be heard, I am sure. And I understand that to an extent. However, as with the forward line, a lack of investment in experience may cost the squad dear before the season really gets under way.
There are three games before the first international break; Arsenal have to be targeting a minimum of seven points to give themselves a good start to the season. A poor start may put them on the back foot and we don’t always respond that well to early pressure.
Calum Chambers has spent a year in the shadows, learning his trade. As with Carl Jenkinson when he returns from injury, you feel this is the season when they push on or push off next summer. Wenger will know in his own mind whether he thinks they will make the grade and successive seasons on loan suggest he doesn’t think that of Jenkinson.
Chambers has versatility on his side although the signing of Granit Xhaka suggests his defensive midfield abilities aren’t likely to be called upon. Which leaves him as a defender. I get the feeling he could develop along similar lines to Johan Djourou. The Swiss international was valued for his versatility but unable to nail down a particular role in the side due to that. Chambers is the same; is he a right back or does he play centrally?
It hampers a player’s future if the manager can’t decide where his best position is and is the quickest path to the exit door. I don’t think Arsène wants that for Chambers and it’s why I believe he will wait to see how he and Gabriel perform before taking action in the market for a centre back.
Whether or not you agree with it is a different matter. However, for the player’s confidence and belief, making a firm statement that he will be given a chance to prove himself can only be the best path, surely?
Focus on the transfer front shouldn’t, in my view, be changed from a striker. It seems likely we will add just one more player to the squad this summer and that should be the priority. That’s if there are any more signings to be had. Experience shows us that Arsenal being active in the market is very different to Arsenal actually making deals.