Despite Mikel Arteta’s early improvements, the Arsenal are still reliant on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score the team’s goals.
Arsenal’s captain curse has continued. First, fans had to endure the pain of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie leaving in the prime of their careers.
After Van Persie’s departure to rivals Manchester United in 2012, many believed Arsenal could finally achieve some leadership stability with Thomas Vermaelen.
However, a new sort of curse hit the once-mighty club: Vermaelen suffered a loss of form, and consequently his place in the first team.
His replacement, Mikel Arteta, fell out of favour in 2014, and never regained his place in the side, despite retaining the captaincy.
When Arteta retired at the end of the 2015-16 season, Per Mertesaker, who captained the side most weeks last season, was officially handed the role on a full-time basis.
However, the dreaded curse struck again. In his first match as full time captain, ‘The BFG’ injured his knee, leaving him sidelined for up to five months – leaving Arsenal with a distinct lack of leadership once again.
While leadership has been a problem for Arsenal ever since the revolving door of captains began just before the move to the Emirates Stadium, centre-back has been relatively stable for the side for a number of years now. Mertesaker and Laurent Koscielny have formed a solid partnership since 2013.
However, with Mertesaker likely to miss at least half a season, as well as his age – 31 – a hole has been left in Arsenal’s defence that most believe needs to be addressed in the transfer market.
Yet spontaneous investment in the transfer market has never been Arsene Wenger’s style, nor has the club’s track record of buying defenders been crash hot. From 2000 on, there’s been at least two or three bad buys for every successful one.
Arsenal, therefore, may be tempted to look internally for a short and long-term solution.
Rob Holding recently arrived from Bolton, but has played just 20 professional games. He needs time.
Gabriel Paulista is a quick and talented defender, but plays in a very similar manner to Koscielny. His poor English means he struggles with communication, and is error prone. As talented as the Brazilian is, he’s probably a reserve option at this stage.
The other option is Calum Chambers.
Chambers – whose Arsenal career has been shaky since his £15 million move from Southampton – is 21 now, and approaching a crossroads in his professional career. He has good grounding, having played 19 times for Arsenal last season (ten as a substitute), at both right back and central defence, giving him good knowledge of defending as a whole.
Chambers is quick, and reasonably strong in the air. Having been a star from so young, he’s more of a natural leader than people give him credit for, but it’s an area that needs to develop. So does his passing, which sees him lose the ball a bit too often.
However, both of these traits are more confidence than talent. An extended run of games in the first team, coupled with some solid displays, could give Chambers the confidence he needs to be a ten-year central defender.
Arsenal lack leadership and stability – two weaknesses that could be fixed by giving Calum Chambers an extended run in the side. Its a big risk, but it could make or break Arsenal’s season. At the very least, it would allow them to solely pursue attacking talent in the transfer window.