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All Guns Blazing: Calum Chambers should be shielded before England hype begins

13:34 20 August 2014

Calum Chambers of Arsenal

Calum Chambers of Arsenal

PA Archive/Press Association Images

In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti asks why key positions still haven’t been filled after two years, and why Calum Chambers could be the bargain of the summer

While waiting for Arsenal vs Crystal Palace to start at the weekend, I found myself watching some of the build-up on Sky’s Saturday Night Football show.

It’s a pretty strange concept: they make the effort to invite a studio audience in to watch, erm, pundits – only to steadfastly ignore them for the duration like they’re ugly kids at a party. It was even more unsettling, however, when I found myself agreeing with the warbling diatribes of Jamie Carragher.

I’m loath to pay much attention to our performances over two games – we’re clearly still working our way back to full strength and match fitness, and we’ve gained decent results.

Yet the Liverpudlian did raise a fair point when he questioned the ‘spine’ of Arsenal’s starting XI. Compared to the quality running through the centre of Manchester City and Chelsea’s squads, our lack of a definitive defensive midfielder is still as noticeable as it was a year or two ago.

While hopefully we’ll do more business before the window closes, the manager’s appointment of Mikel Arteta as captain and hesitancy to play Alexis Sanchez through the middle suggests he’s once again choosing to stick and not twist. I’m a fan of every player brought in so far, but our inability to strengthen those key positions all feels a bit Groundhog Day.

On a more positive note, Calum Chambers looks like he could be the bargain of the summer. I’d put money on him looking a better player than Luke Shaw as time goes on; even with the best defenders, composure usually comes through age, not raw talent and he looks remarkably complete for a 19-year-old.

I’ve seen the Daily Mail et al have already started campaigning to get him an England call-up. Some people never learn.

He could well be a better option than anyone England have at right-back, centre-half or defensive midfield (such versatility will be useful), but I’m more of the Roberto Martinez school of thought.

When asked about the possibility of a Ross Barkley call-up last season, the Spanish manager suggested that young players ought to play around 50 games before representing their country – a sensible idea, surely?

Hopefully with Per Mertesacker back and – fingers crossed – one more centre-back to come in, Chambers will be allowed to find his feet before the England hype machine elevates him to near-impossible levels.

Follow me @alexbellotti

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