22nd May 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
With Laurent Koscielny, Rob Holding, Gabriel Paulista and the soon to be arriving Shkodran Mustafi all ahead of him in the central defensive pecking order going into the season at Arsenal, it made perfect sense for Calum Chambers to head out on loan.
Joining Middlesbrough presented him with a fantastic opportunity to prove himself at the highest level and obtain the vital game time he craved. And although he's had his troubles with injury, most notably when he missed a crucial two month stretch between February and April, the Englishman's time on Teesside has unquestionably been littered with upside.
While Boro's campaign will end in relegation, Chambers is one of the few players that can hold his head high, as he's consistently shone brightly in their season of darkness. Incredibly, Chambers has already started more matches (23) this term in the league than he'd done thoroughout his entire time with Arsenal (20).
Chambers has clearly relished his time at the Riverside too, explaining: "The main focus of coming here was to play centre-back and get the game time, as well as helping Boro any way I can."
"For me, to get this experience will ultimately make me a better player. I think both the team performances and as an individual have been good, and I'm really enjoying it here."
The club's caretaker coach, Steve Agnew, who took over the managerial reigns when Aitor Karanka was sacked in March, has certainly been duly impressed by the talented defender. "He's been excellent. He's a top defender, but not only has he got great defensive qualities, he has a high level of technical ability," gleamed Agnew. "We've missed him [through injury]. He's versatile and can play at right-back or at centre-back."
Using his sound positional sense, striking athleticism, composure, determination and strong decision making qualities, Chambers has done a fine job dealing with the wide variety of Premier League strikers he's faced this season. The versatile former Southampton prospect, who's also competent operating as a holding midfielder or at right-back, has notably racked up some solid statistics to punctuate his excellent crusade. Sitting equal seventh in the league for most clearances per game, with 7.2, he's also won 2.6 aerial duels pg, two tackles pg and 2.1 interceptions pg, with these numbers demonstrating what a power of defensive work he undertakes week in week out with his struggling team.
Technically proficient, the accomplished passer and dribbler has showcased what a useful weapon he can be in the offensive phase of the game, which has only combined to amplify his worth. Courtesy of his formidable displays, transfer speculation has intensified around the 22-year-old ahead of the summer window, as the likes of Everton, West Ham and Newcastle United have all reportedly registered an interest.
Arsene Wenger has also crucially been well aware of his progress at Boro, recently asserting how pleased he's been seeing Chambers flourish. "In a very short time at Middlesbrough, he has become a very important player. They rely on him and trust him a lot, and that's very good news for Calum first, but also for us as well," mused the French manager.
Being so young and with a huge scope for improvement, it's completely comprehensible why Wenger may see him as a worthy addition to his squad next season, especially considering his recent switch to a central defensive back three. But getting guaranteed game time would be no certainty at his parent club, however. With all this in mind and the 2018 World Cup to think about, which he's a sneaky chance of making the English squad for, it'll be imperative that he chooses the right club for his future in the summer.
After his tremendous success in 2016/2017, he'll know selecting a team where he'll be an undisputed starter will be the way to go, for he can't afford to sit out another spell on the peripheries like he's been forced to do at Arsenal in the past.
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