Fulham supporters voted Calum Chambers their player of the season this week. The Arsenal loanee garnered almost 50 percent of the vote, three times more votes than the second place finisher. Somewhat surprisingly, he made his mark at Craven Cottage as a central midfielder, sitting in front of the defense at the base of the midfield, and not as a center back.
Chambers led the Cottagers in interceptions, was second in tackles, third in dribbles, aerial duels, and passes (all on a per-match basis). Of course, leading Fulham, the side that surrendered the most goals in the Premier League and was relegated, in defensive categories is like being the winner of Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America. But hey, it’s something.
It’s unclear what role, if any, Chambers will play at Arsenal next season. The Gunners are in the market for a centerback, but Fulham moved him to the midfield because he struggled in a back four. As a defensive midfielder, he’d be no better than fourth on the depth chart, behind Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira, and Matteo Guendouzi.
With the roster in flux this summer window, Chambers could be on the way out. It’s an open question whether he is good enough for Arsenal, and his homegrown-player status makes him an attractive option for the middling Premier League clubs. That status could also be the reason he stays in North London — the Gunners have quotas to make as well.
I don’t think it’s time to cut bait with Chambers. He’s only 24 years old, and while some will tell you footballers are who they are going to be at that age, my anecdotal opinion is that defensive players take a bit longer to develop. It wasn’t until this season that he was an every-week player, and he made the most of the opportunity. He deserves a shot to make it at Arsenal. Additionally, the Gunners are a side that desperately needs to get younger — selling a 24-year old, obviously, doesn’t help that aim.
If he does end up staying, he’d fit right back in. He got a season’s worth of experience playing in a defensive role on a team that needed to be much better defensively than it was. He’d also allow Unai Emery to play four defensive midfielders at once, something that might cause the manager to dissolve, Wicked Witch of the West style, into a puddle of joy in the technical area.
In all seriousness, congratulations to Cal. He got far more playing time at Fulham than he would have at Arsenal this season and seems to have made the most of it. Hopefully the experience helped him develop as a player so that he can either be a contributor at the Emirates next season or be a more attractive asset when other clubs come calling.