First of all, yes we acknowledge that Mesut Özil was tremendous against Bournemouth, with a goal and an assist – but there will definitely be more opportunities to honor him, and we just did a few days ago, so we decided to pick someone else for once. Luckily there was a pretty obvious choice, and someone who really deserves some dap.
Defensive midfield has been a problem area for a while for Arsenal. We had a pretty good solution in Mikel Arteta, but then he aged five years in a summer and his legs fell off, so that's more or less history. We had a less-perfect but still-pretty-good solution last season in the reborn Francis Coquelin, but despite the pretty obvious positives he brings to the table, he's also still a limited player who could be improved on. Perhaps Mohamed Elneny will be the answer.
But at least for one day, Calum Chambers looked like he might be the man.
Calum hasn't played a ton this year – in fact, just last week he was the subject of a pretty extended debate amongst the TSF crew, concerning whether or not he'd be best served going out on loan. There were concerns that his development was stalling from one side, and concerns from the other that if Per Mertesacker fell in a hole and Laurent Koscielny got sick, we'd be stuck with literal children in the defense. To be perfectly honest, midfield didn't come up much.
As recently as one day ago, I was making graveyard-whistling jokes about the prospect of starting Hollister Cal in the midfield against Bournemouth. For clarity's sake, I'm aware that Arsène Wenger has talked about the fact that he may eventually find himself there full-time, and while he hadn't yet started there he'd played as a late sub. I'm just not sure I was ready for it so soon. But luckily Chambers was.
Calum Chambers today: 53/58 passes (91%) 7 ball recoveries 1 tackle 2 interceptions 4 blocked shots 3/3 clearances Adjusted.— Alex (@The_Tsar_Cannon) December 28, 2015
If you've been around here for more than a month, or if you follow our writers on Twitter, you know that the main complaint about Coquelin's game around these parts (beside the knee injury) is his passing and his technique. He's fine at stopping an attack, but from there he usually needs some help from his midfield partner. Chambers showed yesterday that he has the ability to excel at all the parts of the game that an Arsenal defensive midfielder would need to succeed. Breaking up play. Supporting the defense. An apparent rapport with Arsenal's best central midfielder. Short passing, long balls, tricky passes, simple passes.
It was "only" Bournemouth, of course – a team that has beaten Manchester United this season and won at Chelsea's home ground, but remains in 16th position – but still, it's encouraging. At the very least, there's a new option at defensive midfield. I'm hoping it turns into something more.