The upcoming summer transfer window could be era-defining for this Arsenal team. With wages freed up, outgoings likely and players with just one year left on their deals, it appears that there will be changes aplenty at the club. One position which has appeared to be a problem throughout the year has been at right-back. The club currently have four recognised right-backs on the books, each with a different skill set to the last but all the available options appear to have glaring weaknesses. Hector Bellerin, Cedric Soares, Calum Chambers and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have all shared the position for the club this season and Mikel Arteta seems just as undecided as everyone else in regard to who will be the first choice.
The first choice right-back for the majority of the season has been Hector Bellerin. The Spaniard, approaching his ten-year anniversary at the club, was once destined to be one of the best right-backs in the world. In true Micah Richards style, he burst onto the scene and his blistering pace and effervescent personality on the pitch was wonderful to watch. However, as it always seems to be with young Arsenal players destined for greatness, injuries seem to have got the better of our number 2. After suffering a Cruciate Ligament Rupture in home game against Chelsea, Bellerin missed around 8 months of action and returned a stiffer version of his former self. It appears his best days may have already passed him by and his fluidity and mobility, both on and off the ball, seem to have vanished. This is a tale of woe for all involved at the club. Bellerin has been described as a leader in the dressing room, is a fantastic spokesperson for the club and a wonderful human being in general, who isn’t afraid to speak out against social injustice. It would be a real shame to lose the Cockney Catalan but from a pure footballing standpoint, it would appear Hector Bellerin may be moved on in the summer.
When signed on loan in January 2020, a real sense of confusion reverberated around the Arsenal fanbase. Cedric Soares, a client of Kia Joorabchian, signed for the Gunners and it appeared to all that this was a move from Edu to keep the peace with the super-agent. There was even more confusion amongst the fanbase when Cedric’s transfer was made permanent in the summer despite a limited number of appearances or influence on the pitch. Since then the Portuguese international has impressed more than many could’ve believed. He has shown an attacking option that wasn’t seen when Hector Bellerin was at right-back and has shown that he is capable enough to play in the big games. However, despite his skills going forward, his defensive skills fall short of what is required at the top level, but he seems to do a good enough job whenever he is tasked with a challenging opponent. He isn’t anywhere close to being a gamechanger or an attractive option at right-back but for the current climate of the squad he does a job and that’s about it.
From out of nowhere Calum Chambers has appeared to have thrown himself into the right-back conversation. Whenever Chambers and right back are mentioned in the same sentence flashbacks of Jefferson Montero rampaging down Swansea’s left-wing dominate the mind of every Arsenal fan who was unfortunate enough to have seen that display. Chambers has since impressed on loan at Middlesbrough and Fulham, despite both clubs being relegated, and his versatility is an attractive reason to keep him in the Arsenal squad. It appears that Mikel Arteta’s use of Chambers is based on the opponent and their threat from set-pieces and Chambers is very comfortable when defending opponents from dead balls. His major weakness is clearly his lack of pace and he can be caught out at times if he ventures too far forward. However, if his performance against West Ham is anything to go by, every time Chambers was involved in the final third, we either scored or almost did. It was an encouraging performance from the Englishman and those who doubted his offensive prowess may have to think twice in the future, including Jamie Carragher who was left likening his performance to Cafu, we will pretend he was being deadly serious. His versatility and major differences to our other options allow Chambers to be useful to our squad but not as a first choice. Although unlikely, it will be interesting to see if Chambers operates in a midfield pivot or at center-back before the season ends.
Last but not least, in my opinion, is our most talented right back, and maybe one of the most naturally gifted fullbacks in the league. It is just a shame he avidly hates the idea of being a right back. Ainsley Maitland-Niles saunters up and down the right-hand side as if he was playing on a Sunday morning at Hackney Marshes. Both on and off the ball, he would be our best right back. He has the ability to beat a man one on one and can drive the side forward with his surging runs through the thirds. His final product is also unmatched at the club and as seen from the Estadio de Mestallo to St. James’ Park, his ability to pick out Aubameyang in the box with ease is a great sign for Arsenal fans. Maitland-Niles has also been tasked with marking some of the toughest wingers in England and his performance against Mo Salah a few years ago showed his defensive capabilities. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, his desire to play at right-back is null and void and therefore Maitland-Niles being a realistic option at right-back is hard to imagine.
In conclusion, it would appear that we will dip into the market for a right-back in the summer and, if all goes well, they will be our first choice right-back for years to come.