The increased competition within Arsenal’s squad this season has seen many positions contested with a lot more intensity, and the battle for that right-back spot is well and truly on. Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and Hector Bellerin have all showcased their abilities, but who is Arsene Wenger’s best choice?
Debuchy and Chambers were brought in from Newcastle and Southampton respectively last summer, which saw Carl Jenkinson leave to West Ham on a season-long loan, but the two defenders have experienced mixed fortunes during their first year in North London.
The 29 year-old former Lille right-back showed great promise as Arsenal’s senior right sided full-back earlier in the campaign, but two long term injuries, first sustained in September and then in January, have marred the Frenchman’s début season, limiting his game-time to only 10 Premier League appearances.
The France international is ahead of former Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna in Didier Deschamps squad, as his improved form for Alan Pardew’s Newcastle last season attracted the attention of Arsene Wenger. His absence has allowed his younger team-mates the opportunity to enjoy prolonged spells in the side.
Chambers enjoyed a solid beginning of his Arsenal career and was rewarded for his composed and assured performances at the back, when named August player of the month by the club. He also earned himself three senior England caps for his efforts.
Most of these impressive performances manifested from the centre of defence however, when covering for Laurent Koscielny. Then for much of the campaign, Chambers was consistently deployed out on the right in place of Debuchy, whilst Nacho Monreal covered at centre-back for the injured Koscielny.
As the season went on however, Chambers increasingly began to show signs of fatigue and vulnerability as a right-back. He isn’t equipped with sufficient pace to play on the flanks and not quite enough the mobility either. He was exposed heavily against Jefferson Montero away to Swansea City back in October, and so you wouldn’t favour him up against the Eden Hazard’s of this world.
Then there’s Bellerin, who signed from Barcelona at the age of 16. He grew from strength to strength in Arsenal’s youth academy, despite a reportedly unsuccessful loan spell at Watford last season. This season however, the young Spaniard has burst into the first team set-up on a consistent basis, in the absence of Debuchy.
The 20 year-old defender is reportedly faster than the road runner himself, Theo Walcott. We’ve already witnessed his lightning pace on the flanks, in comparison to Chambers. He’s been a consistent performer for the side, making a total of 16 appearances and even bagged himself his first senior goal against Aston Villa in February.
The emergence of Bellerin has been one of many season talking points, which could spell trouble for Jenkinson’s future, as he’s also considered a preferable right-back option to Chambers. I can only see a future in the centre of defence for the England man, resulting in a long term battle between Bellerin and Debuchy.
At the moment though, it all boils down to experience, something that only comes with time and I reckon this is the decisive factor when picking who to play on the right. Therefore, I won’t be surprised to see the Frenchman get the nod ahead of Bellerin regularly in the future, but either way, Arsenal are blessed with a wealth of defensive talent.