We’re only one week in to the new season and after a decent enough defensive display against Newcastle (even if we were relatively untroubled) thoughts are immediately turning to Burnley at the weekend. But, more importantly, who plays against Burnley at the heart of our defence, because I’d make it a little more difficult to decide than I’d have expected it to be before the season kicked off.
The arrival of Luiz from Chelski would suggest that he will get some game time but assuming that Emery wants to stick with a back four again, it means competition for places there is high, because I put Calum Chambers as a player who probably deserves another outing to see how he gets on. He played well against Newcastle; no nonsense, dealt easily enough with the efforts of the Newcastle team, coping with both aerial balls and channel balls from the Newcastle midfield. Alongside him Sokratis did well enough too and I thought both were deserving enough to get another shot at the weekend.
Chambers specifically. There are plenty of people saying “it’s only one game” and of course that is true, but how did Holding build up his good form last season? He did it by starting off with one or two impressive performances, building on the confidence that it brought him, then by the time he got injured in the Arsenal team he was a player we couldn’t drop. I’m not sure anybody thought that of him at the start of the season and although I acknowledge Chambers is a few years older, whose to say that we can’t see the same outcome, providing he plays enough games to build momentum.
So I’m hopeful that Unai Emery has so tough decisions to make ahead of the game. He could easily slot Luiz and Sokratis in as his experienced central defensive pairing, but perhaps Chambers should be given another chance, because who knows what might happen if he gets six or seven games in a row?
We also have Rob Holding to come back, who played 63 minutes for the under-23s and must only be a few weeks away from at least a suns bench appearance. The hope is that Holding’s injury hasn’t hampered his evolution that we saw last season but if we can get Chambers in form by seeing if he can build some momentum, then why not have a look at easing Holding in a little slower. There’s no point rushing him if by some miracle we actually have defenders in form.
I suspect Chambers probably won’t get the chance at the weekend because we’ve seen that Emery operates a more pragmatic approach to his team selections, but if he is to give some players another chance then you’d hope it could be done against Burnley at home. We’re hardly solid enough to put that down as a banker and the draw against Brighton and loss to Palace has taught us fans that Arsenal can lose to anyone, but given we’re usually ‘Second half FC‘ anyway, we can afford to give some players another shot at the weekend I reckon.
That goes the same for the likes of Nelson, Willock et al I think. We could easily slot Pepe in for the ineffective Mkhitaryan and play Nelson on the left, whilst Willock’s performance will have Emery thinking long and hard because despite Ceballos being at the club, the youngster did well enough to keep the jersey I reckon.
It’s all good stuff. I know the performance was bitty and we were hardly a full-flowing goal-scoring, team-smashing machine, but it feels like there’s more positives to take from the Newcastle game than negatives right now. I guess that’s the nature of the game in that your opinions are coloured by the eventual result but if we’re going to spend our lives being told that it’s a ‘results business’, then when you do in fact get the result needed, should that be the way you judge all of the players as a collective?
Anyway, there’s plenty to look at over the coming days but right now we can be pleased that we are up and running, we’ve got a home game on the horizon, plus we have some shiny new players who might be making their full home debuts on Saturday. It’s an exciting start to the season.
Catch you lovely human beings tomorrow.