It is that time of the year again when Arsenal have repeatedly been bothered with injuries and with the winter window not far away, it’s time to look at the possibilities. After the summer transfer window came to a close, questions cropped up over Wenger not adding depth in defensive midfield. All dreams about signing the Schneiderlin’s and the Krychowiak’s came down to nothing.
From then, the fans’ biggest fear was an injury to Francis Coquelin and what looked almost inevitable, happened. It’s not a minor injury and will be keeping him on the sidelines for nearly 3 months. But maybe the timing of the injury is not too bad after all. There is only a month more for the transfer window to open and the only tough fixtures during that period is the trip to Olympaicos and a home encounter against title rivals Manchester City, both of which are season defining games, though.
There’s no point blaming Wenger over not buying another defensive midfielder to cover for Coquelin. Whatever happened has happened and it is now time to assess the options from within. On paper, the two immediate choices would be Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini. Arteta’s best days are well and truly behind him, and he is now struggling to even last 90 minutes in a match. Flamini’s inconsistency means that even he wouldn’t be a reassuring solution.
So for the next one month or so, the solution Wenger has seemingly come up with is to play Calum Chambers, who played as a DM in his younger days, as our primary midfield enforcer. The Englishman has played in various positions for Arsenal, like RB, CB and CDM. After trying out all the positions, playing him as a center back seems the most convincing option. He hardly got game time there as he was below Koscielny, Mertesacker and Gabriel in the pecking order for center back.
There’s absolutely no chance for him to fill in at right back, with Bellerin and Debuchy ahead of him. Injury to Coquelin was the only way he could get some regular game time, and so it happened. Hence it seems that with the help of rotation with Flamini, Chambers is the immediate temporary solution to Coquelin’s absence. This is an alternative that many of us wouldn’t have seen coming. Flamini filling up the vacancy and promoting youth players like Krystian Bielik and Glen Kamara was what many would have thought of. Bu Wenger has his own way of surprising his fans.
But can Chambers really be effective in that role? He’s played there before only to have produced below par performances. Filling Coquelin’s boots is by no means an easy task. The Frenchman’s ability to win the ball and doing timely interceptions thereby stopping counter attacks at the point where they begin from, is what has helped him cement his place in the starting XI for nearly a year now. And if Chambers lacks the ability, then Arsenal would be losing a huge dimension from their football.
He would surely feel hard done by the expectations considering his lack of game time, but at the same time he would also see this as an opportunity to prove himself as an able CDM. He will certainly hope to impress and so does Flamini. Suddenly everyone is out there to make a statement. This is what squad depth and competition for places can do to a club. Arsenal undoubtedly has depth, but whether it has depth in the right places will be put to test by these injuries.
Now that Wenger has come up with a solution, it is hard to imagine him spending in January. As usual, he claimed to spend if he finds the ‘right quality’. Quite naturally, if he couldn’t find the right quality in the summer itself, I don’t think he will be finding one in the winter. Let’s just hope we don’t end up with a Kim Kallstrom-esque signing, for signing no one would still be better. It is premature to decide whether a signing is a necessity, because how Chambers performs and how Coquelin progresses will only matter in deciding that.
Of course, Wenger will be having some players in mind if Chambers fails to impress, with the likes of William Carvalho and Victor Wanyama being the likely front-runners, but for now it is fair to say that Chambers and Flamini deserve the opportunity they’ve just got, and for all we know, signing a DM might not be a necessity after all.
On a different note, Arsenal’s title push will be boosted by the return of Aaron Ramsey and so are Wenger’s midfield options. With the returns of Walcott and Wilshere imminent, Arsenal will be looking forward to keep up with the leaders, so that by January transfer window we’ll get a clear picture on what the squad needs to make a legitimate attempt to win the title.