Arsenal made five signings this summer, and it probably surprised many that Calum Chambers represents on those moves. While it initially seemed that Arsenal have signed a right-back for the future, it appears that Chambers future should involve him playing at right center back, as Arsenalai??i??s heir to Per Metresackerai??i??s position.

A Modern Center Back

The attribute that stands out for Chambers, more than any other, is his intelligence. Unlike many English players, Chambers game revolves around his ability to read the game and make good decisions. With this ability to understand the state of play and anticipate what will happen, it allows him to make use of his other attributes to greater effect. These include excellent athleticism and technical ability for a center back.

However, an underrated aspect of his ability as a defender, at the center back position, is his education as a right back. For a side like Arsenal, who often play a possession-based style of football, the full backs have a role in attack, either making forward runs or taking up advanced positions in the attack. With these players on the flanks playing such a crucial role in attack, it places more of an emphasis on the center backs ability to cover wide areas, as well as more central areas. If Hector Bellerin becomes the Arsenal right-back of the future, the ability for the center back to cover wide areas will become exceedingly important, given the Spaniard ability going forward and penchant for proactive defending.

Calum Chambers - Arsenal FC right back |

Calum Chambers’ time at right-back for Southampton could prove quite valuable as a center back for Arsenal.

When it comes to Chambers, his athleticism allows him to cover quite a bit of ground as a center back. Compare this to Per Mertesacker, whose relative lack of mobility makes him less likely to mitigate a potential threat, if he needs to move quite a distance from his initial defensive position. Also, unlike Mertesacker, the athleticism that Chambers possesses allows him to potentially develop into a better 1-on-1 defender than Mertesacker, particularly against wide players who are skillful dribblers. Finally, he has some experience defending on the flank, as he played right back for Southampton. Unlike Mertesacker, who seems a little bit like a fish out of water when he finds himself alone on the flanks, Chambers would probably display a kind of comfort and calm, along with effectiveness, when possessing the ball in wide areas, due to his experiences at right-back.

This greater ability to cover space and defend wide areas not only helps Chambers produce more defensive value for Arsenal, but it has the potential to improve the rest of the teamai??i??s ability to produce on the defensive end. In particular, it could allow Arsenal to win the ball higher up the pitch. With greater trust in his center back, the right back can take more risks in winning possession higher up the pitch, either through an interception or a tackle. He could also look to join in a teamai??i??s high pressing, giving them another defender in that area of the pitch, probably increasing the teamai??i??s ability to create turnovers high up the pitch. For a team like Arsenal, who seem to have a desire to play a 4-1-4-1, which has the potential to become a nice pressing formation, the security the men further forward would enjoy, due to the presence of a center-back like Chambers, could turn Arsenal into a team that can better control matches without the ball, as well as with it, while also making them more devastating.

Utilizing the Center Back Position in Possession

For many possession-based sides, having center backs who can play with the ball at their feet appears crucial. This makes sense from the perspective that players who off little in possession become liabilities to their team. One can look at a side like Liverpool, whose center backs offer little quality on the ball. Instead of having to extend their defensive shape to account for all 10 of Liverpoolai??i??s outfield players, they can focus on defending eight players with their defensive shape. Essentially, Liverpool have two technically inept players (often Sakho and Skrtel) with plenty of time and space, and eight players trying to find space against 10. In addition to that, these limited center backs could become targets for pressing traps, with teams coaxing them to advance into ai???spaceai??? which is really an area of the pitch where the defense can easily collapse on the defender and win the ball.

The other perspective that calls for possession-based sides to have ball-playing center backs is that often teams play a single man up top against two center backs. In this case, a team may not make a concerted effort to give the center backs time and space in possession, but the shape of their team might lead to that outcome anyway.

Therefore, if a possession-based side wants to maximize their effectiveness, they need to punish their opponents, when their opposing formation consistently gives a particular position plenty of time and space on the ball. From this position, a player has space to advance the ball into, can pick play an incisive pass through the opponentai??i??s defensive lines, can comfortably play balls over the top to pick out a teammate, or can serve as a hub when the side look to recycle possession.

France 0-1 Germany - Mats Hummels out-jumped Varane to score from a set-piece

Even though Mats Hummels has his weaknesses defensively, what he offers in possession is unique and highly valuable.

For these reasons, a club like Barcelona has opted to play more technically gifted players at center back, sometimes converting central midfielders to center backs. Center backs like Mats Hummels, David Luiz, and Leonardo Bonucci give their teams potentially immense benefits in possession, even if a player like David Luiz has a tendency to switch off/make terrible decisions defensively.

At right center back, Calum Chambers offers more in possession than any center back Arsenal currently have in their squad. Initially, his development saw him play as a central midfielder, and when one sees him on the ball, it seems obvious. His vision, intelligence, and technique are often on full display when he is on the ball.

His time at right back has also allowed him to be comfortable with the ball in wide areas. This has value, particularly for a side that wishing to drop a midfielder in between the center backs and split their center backs quite wide. By doing this, a side looks to give themselves a spare man or two at the back, depending on how many men occupy the first line of defense for the opponent. The further the center backs split, the more space the opponentai??i??s first defensive line must cover. This has some benefits for the back line themselves, but it also makes it easier for the keeper to make passes forward into this line, and it increases the availability of a ai???safeai??? passing option for players higher up the pitch, allowing them a way to more safely move the ball when under pressure. With Arsenal moving to a 4-1-4-1, that appears more like a Dutch 4-3-3 than any formation that Arsenal have played under Arsene Wenger, Chambers comfort on the ball, in wide areas, can allow Arsenal to split their center backs quite wide, helping them to better control games in possession and effectively build from the back.

The Market for Center Backs: Getting in on the Ground Floor

A final reason for Arsenal to develop Calum Chambers as their right-sided center back of the future is the fact that acquiring elite center back talent is rather costly. A player like Thomas Vermaelen, who is 28 and an inferior center back, though he plays left-sided center back not as a right-sided on, went for 15 million pounds this summer. Marcus Rojo went for 16 million pounds. David Luiz went for 50 million pounds. Even acquiring young center backs, who potentially carry a greater degree of risk, came at a high cost. Kurt Zouma went to Chelsea for a little over 12 million pounds. Eliaquin Mangala went for over 30 million pounds. And these are just the transfer fees. These do not include wages, bonuses, agent fees, payments to third parties, etc. Therefore, acquiring a player of the caliber of Calum Chambers, who could make the right center back position his own for the next 7-9 years, is an immense boon for Arsenal. Instead of dealing with the uncertainty of how they will fill the position, competing with other clubs for scarce valuable players, and not having to allocate resources towards this search, allowing them to allocate those scarce resources elsewhere, Arsenal can better compete for at the highest level of football.

Conclusion

With the injuries Arsenal face, Calum Chambers will probably see quite a bit of time at right-back. However, the potential value that he provides as Arsenalai??i??s long-term right center back seem too great to think that he will not consistently play in that role in the near future. Now, if Arsenal can find a left-sided center back for the future, they may finally achieve stability in an area of the pitch that has seen so much turnover during Arsenalai??i??s Emirates Era.

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