As Arsenal transition into the 2018/19 season with Unai Emery, many things have changed at the club, however, one thing that looks to be staying the same is the club’s faith in young, homegrown talent.
So far we’ve seen that with Ainsley Maitland-Niles being rewarded with a new contract and shirt number, as well as two centre backs receiving something similar.
Recently, both Rob Holding and Calum Chambers have signed new long term contracts which is particularly encouraging. At 22 and 23 respectively both have been in relatively similar boats during their Arsenal careers and to be given the opportunity to impress under the new regime should not just be relished by them but by us as fans also.
Moving into this season, even though it may be unlikely for them to be our starting centre back pairing, they could make a great claim for themselves in pre-season. With Laurent Koscielny injured for the foreseeable future, its probably expected that new signing Sokratis will partner Shkodran Mustafi as our first choice centre backs, however, with question there still being question marks over Mustafi’s future and Sokratis having to adapt to the league, this could an ‘alignment of the stars’ for the pair.
As we know, within any centre back partnership there needs to be chemistry for it to work. This is something we last saw at Arsenal in the 2013/14 season when we were top of the Premier League for longer than any other team. A big reason for this was the partnership formed by Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, who played 46 and 52 games respectively that year. The pair complemented each other extremely well and showed a great understanding which we haven’t seen at The Emirates since.
In Chambers and Holding, however, we have two players who very clearly have a great chemistry off the pitch which can only help on it. Also, both have had decent runs in the team when they performed consistently and showed they can grow into a starting role. For Chambers this was towards the back end of last season and for Holding it was the back end of the 2016/17 season.
Although a partnership between the two would be nice, being in very similar situations, they could be in competition for starting spots next season. When looking at last season’s numbers, although he didn’t quite reach the heights of the previous year, that may put Holding in a better starting position as his stats per 90 minutes were closing and surpassed some of those from Mustafi and Koscielny:
So, going into this season the paths of both Calum Chambers and Rob Holding will be interesting to watch unfold. Will both make a good impression on Unai Emery? Will one of them cement themselves in the team rather than both? Or both be limited to just the cup competitions? Well, that’s just one of the many reasons that will make this season at Arsenal a must watch.