Calum Chambers has joined Premier League side Aston Villa on a permanent deal for an undisclosed, nominal fee, believed to be around £2m.
Chambers only had 6 months remaining on his contract with Arsenal (though there was the option for an extension), but the club preferred the option to sell the player for a fee, albeit a very small one, now, than to lose him for free in the summer.
The transfer is a surprise for many reasons, first of all, there was literally no reporting around the deal at all, with no briefing for journalists and no heads-up from the club, but also because it is a transfer that very few would have predicted.
Chambers has been at Arsenal for nearly 7 years, joining for £16m from Southampton in 2014. He was initially a very important player under Arsène Wenger, often deputising for Mathieu Debuchy, however, the rise of Héctor Bellerín meant that Chambers was forced to play as more of an auxiliary back-up.
In 2016, he was loaned to Middlesbrough for the remainder of the season, where he impressed for the club, making 26 appearances in all competitions.
He was also loaned to Fulham Athletic a year or so later, where he was deployed more as a central defensive midfielder, than as a right-back or central defender.
Chambers has also represented his country, England, on 3 occasions, all coming in 2014.
It was thought that Chambers would play a big part under Mikel Arteta, given that he is a ball-playing defender who is good in the air, however, his time was cut short by a nasty anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. which kept him out for up to 9 months and allowed other players to move up ahead of him. The summer signing of Benjamin White didn’t help his case either.
Chambers leaves Arsenal having won 2 FA Cups and 3 community shields with the club, a modest, if not admirable decoration for a player who was mainly a fringe player throughout his time with the club.
The transfer is however a baffling one. Chambers’ departure now means that Arsenal are down to the very bare-bones of defence, with no suitable cover at right-back provided. Chambers is capable of playing as a central defender, a right full-back and as a central defensive midfielder and while Benjamin White is capable of this too, it is strange that Arsenal are so prepared to sacrifice tactical flexibility for such a small payday.
Chambers leaving means that Arsenal are left with Cédric Soares as their only viable full-back cover if Takehiro Tomiyasu is injured.
Quite apart from that, there is another issue in the form of the payment itself. Having already released Sead Kolašinac from his contract, there is the question as to why a similar tactic for selling players could not have been applied to him as well as Chambers.
This sale also leaves Arsenal somewhat light in the defensive departments, with only Cédric Soares, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Benjamin White, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Nuno Tavares and Kieran Tierney the only defenders remaining to Mikel Arteta, unless he decides to take a gamble on unproven youngster Omar Rekik ahead of William Saliba’s return in the summer.
As we enter the final few days of the window, Arsenal will need to focus on incomings right now, rather than any more departures.