It would seem every decision that Arsene Wenger makes is being scrutinised more than a Bolivian coming through customs. Defensive tactics, team-sheets, training methods. Hell, if he were to champion the virtues of penicillin, there would be a smattering of naysayers who would outline the benefits of holistic healing rather than conventional medicine. At this present moment in time, for a large portion of Gooners he is the fulcrum of our problems this season.
You could say he has brought this upon himself. It wouldn’t be unduly negative to highlight our weakness facing counter-attacking opposition to showcase that some chinks in our armour haven’t been addressed. Cynicism though, is like bacteria. It spreads and affects all it touches. No one has been immune to this. Even the staunchest of Arsene aficionado’s have courted the dark side this season.
This pessimism that has swept all aside, which has seeped into our pores, has also pulled the wool over our eyes to a degree. Wenger has faced a mammoth amount of criticism for slotting beleaguered Nacho Monreal into central defence to partner Per, whilst Chambers has been ousted to the right hand side of the backline despite some impressive early showings in the middle.
This decision in particular has raised eyebrows, blood pressures and merry hell amongst Gooners. His continued ignorance towards Chambers’ merits at centre-back was one of the bigger of the sticks used to flagellate our manager. How could he not see that Chambers was the best man for the job rather than poor Nacho who has had to adapt quickly to a vastly different role and requirement?
Well, aside from the Anderlecht debacle, Nacho hasn’t been directly responsible for any goals conceded. His partnership with a ring-rusty Mertesacker hasn’t been the floundering wreck we perceived it would be. True, it’s hardly been watertight either – but when Kos isn’t alongside our towering German then the BFG is akin to a bacon sandwich without HP sauce. Per has sorely missed our Gallic defensive titan to clean up when his positional sense isn’t enough and he needs him to race back and clean up. Hence why Nacho’s average position during a game is further back than the BFG. Monreal has performed admirably well dealing with all these mitigating factors.
Would the spotlight on Nacho be a little dimmer had our results erred on the positive? Of course. Losing breeds soul-searching and that is all us fans are doing. Questioning everything we can, searching the nooks and indeed, the crannies, to find that ‘Eureka’ moment that would reverse an alarming slide. A lot of people think that Calum at CB could be that very thing. A remedy to the malaise that surrounds our efforts. So why does Arsene persist with Chambers on the right?
Chambers and The Ox have started the last six games on the right hand side. Upon close inspection, you will notice the budding of a beautiful partnership. It was The Ox who welcomed Chambers most heartily when he first arrived at London Colney. It would have been a bewildering experience for a young man of his age to sign for Arsenal, especially seeing as he hadn’t exactly racked up a huge amount of experience at St Mary’s. According to the many lenses focused on our prodigal talents at training and pre-season though, it seemed as if it was Chamberlain who helped integrate fresh-faced Calum into the Gunners fold. This burgeoning friendship has evidently reaped dividends on the pitch.
Whilst sometimes rash in his decision-making at the back, it is abundantly clear that Chambers is not hewn from the average defender stock. He has talented feet and a good awareness for those around him. Belying his stature, he aids attack well and can arrow in an accurate cross if needed. A Donkey he ain’t.
The Ox is prone to flitting from flank to flank in an effort to assert his presence on proceedings. He does favour the right-hand side however. What has become a more influential asset to our play recently has been the link-up play between the two former Saints boys. The one-two’s and give ‘n’ go’s between the pair have reaped rewards on our right and utilised the pace of Alex and the versatility of Calum.
Aforementioned above, the last 6 games in all competitions has seen the flowering alliance given a chance to grow. Amidst the caterwauling from all regarding Calum being better suited to the centre (which still may be the case) the two from Southampton have forged an undeniably strong collaboration. Like a cop-sitcom set in the ‘70’s, Chambers & The Ox have started to gel incredibly well and soon their displays will warrant a cheesy theme tune comparable to Cagney & Lacey.
In the match against Dortmund at The emirates, at least 80-85% of our threat emanated from the right hand side. It was these two players that were responsible for the torment Schmelzer – the Dortmund left-back – suffered. Bearing in mind that Gibbs and Alexis track back when necessary then we look pretty solid on the wings.
It would seem that – perhaps – we could be looking at the defensive line-up from the wrong perspective. Maybe negativity skewed our view. We have all suffered. Wenger, it seems, was aware all along that Nacho could do a job in the centre and Calum would be a revelation at RB.
To be honest though, if we had brought in another defender in the summer, we wouldn’t have had this angst to deal with. Hindsight is a wonderfully useless thing, isn’t it?