Not so long ago, in a Galaxy far far away a similar article was written on this very subject. Sky Sports decided to cast their rather wealthy eyes over Arsenal’s right back options: would it be Sagna, Eboue, or Hoyte chosen by Wenger to start the 07/08 season? They chose Hoyte. Yes, you heard. They were wrong.
Ahead of the 15/16 season, Arsenal last week had four options: Debuchy, Bellerin, Chambers, and Jenkinson. With the latter having returned to West Ham on loan, the quartet has become a trio, yet there is no reason for concern at all. These three players are all hugely talented in the right back position, and even more importantly for an Arsenal player, all have quite delightful quiffs. The only problem facing Arsene Wenger this season will be choosing between them: as I’m sure the boss will be reading this, I’ll try and do his job for him.
So, we’ll start with Calum Chambers, a middle ground between the defensive Debuchy and the attacking Bellerin. Probably third choice out of the three at the moment, but by no means a weakness. He made 28 starts last season, excelling as he started the season on fire. Not literally. Even Arsenal haven’t had someone injured by fire. Yet. Anyway, he was voted Player of the Month for September and earned his first England cap later that month.
However, these performances were primarily at centre back and this is arguably where Chambers has looked more comfortable. If he has looked vulnerable (versus Swansea and a certain Montero), it has been at right back and the player himself has said his favoured position is centre back. With Mertesacker nearing the end of his career in the next couple of years, Chambers looks like a perfect replacement long term. With man of the match performances against Crystal Palace and Besiktas, and a superb performance early in the season against Manchester City, all coming from centre back, it is in the middle where Chambers future surely lies.
Now it’s a 50/50 shootout between Debuchy and Bellerin. Debuchy managed just the 10 starts in an injury ravaged season, with December the only full month of action for the French international. To summarise: Played, injured, played, injured, played, and to finish the season… injured. When he was fit, he struggled to regain his place thanks to the success of Bellerin. However, he is fully fit again and will be vying to get his name back in that line-up. The strongest defensively of the three in question and by far the strongest in the air, with 75% of aerial duels won compared to 44% and 61% for Bellerin and Chambers respectively. A The Frenchman is an experienced, reliable international who hasn’t really done anything wrong.
However, he has yet to really impose himself in an Arsenal shirt. Perhaps his more reliable and less exuberant style is what the team needs, considering the plethora of exciting options ahead of him. Despite this, it is tough to ignore Bellerin after the way he finished the season.
Hector Bellerin. Quickest in the squad, beautiful hair, exciting to watch… what more could you want? Came on late in the first pre-season game against a Singapore XI, but still had enough time to produce a goal saving tackle as well as a delightful cross to gift Akpom a hat trick. Questions remain about his defensive abilities, but aged just 20 he is still learning and has the potential (a dangerous word) to become world class. 25 appearances in a breakthrough season and a storming finish appear to have put him in pole position to grab the right back position. As tempting as it is to make a horrific joke here about his speed and not being caught, I’ll resist.
Here goes. Arsene, listen up. Chambers needs to be focusing on a move to centre back, and should only be used at right back in the case of an injury crisis. The team isn’t blesses with a vast array of centre backs and so we must utilise Chambers in his strongest position. This would prevent Debuchy having to fill in at centre back when Koscielny gets a red card against Crystal Palace at home. It will happen. Debuchy can provide cover, and perhaps his reliability and experience will see him start in important away games. However, the first choice right back this season must be Hector Bellerin. He adds so much going forward and is improving all the time defensively, with his pace enabling him to wriggle out of any slips or mistakes.
There you go: Bellerin, Debuchy, Chambers in that order. Let’s hope I’m a bit more successful than Sky were eight years ago.