In less than a week, Fulham went from being set at center back to needing reinforcements when rumors came flying in that new signing Alfie Mawson would be out until September due to a lingering knee injury. In came today’s announcement that Calum Chambers joins Fulham on a season-long loan.
Simply put, it has been a trying time for the 23-year old hoping to make the grade at England’s elite after breaking out at Southampton in 2014. If it wasn’t for Luke Shaw, we’d be talking about Chambers as one of the great failed English prospects in this most recent World Cup cycle.
That said, it’s not like he hasn’t been getting any playing time with Arsenal at all. In 2017/18, Chambers made 12 appearances 869 minutes of Premier League competition for the North London club, as well as 600 minutes of Europa League competition. Along the way, he has proven to be a versatile player during his young career by playing at right back and in defensive midfield in times of need.
This skill set will come in handy if Fulham are not able to make anymore signings in the transfer window by week’s end. The club still needs depth in midfield in case Kevin McDonald is either injured or not good enough for Premier League competition and the same can be said of Ryan Frederick’s heir-appairant Cyrus Christie. Still, it will be at center back that Chambers will be first be expected to put in strong shifts.
However, his radar will indicate that the notion of banking on him to be an out-and-out starter is not great: regardless of where Chambers is in his development. While being a good passer of the ball, Chambers is not one to put in an elite cross in the box (career 20.4% crossing accuracy) nor is he one to break a defense with a bomb up the pitch (career 2.44 long ball passes per 90 minutes).
If anything, Chambers’ greatest strengths are on the other side of the ball where he is strong in the tackle (career 2.70 tackles per 90 minutes) and will come in among the better Fulham players on the intercept, on blocking shots and in winning headers with frequency. That said, his style of play can be high-risk-high-reward and that will be something to look at as he hopes to compliment Tim Ream or Mawson at the center of the pitch. Below are some comparisons of Chambers’ play throughout his league career in comparison to current and past Fulham Center Backs.
Lastly, Chambers just isn’t anywhere near as mobile as Slavisa Jokanovic would like in a fullback. His dribbling is barely acceptable at that position (career 0.81 per 90 minutes), but his lack of a threatening ball (career 0.45 key passes per 90 minutes) is not going to be good enough to surpass Christie in the starting XI. I could absolutely see him in the holding midfield role once Mawson returns but even McDonald surpasses him in dribbling (career 0.95 per 90 minutes from the Scot) and long ball passing (career 4.66 per 90 minutes).
That all being said, center back play is so hard to evaluate using only data. Like Ream before him, if Chambers is able to develop under Jokanovic, he might have what it takes to restart his career and maybe even get back on the England squad. Otherwise, like Andre Schürrle, this is another low risk addition that Tony Kahn and Co. have brought to the club that may or may not break right for them. Either way, I definitely wish the former Southampton and Arsenal man the best of luck.