Roy Hodgson will be announcing his first post-World Cup England squad later this week, and there’s likely to be a clamour for Arsenal’s Calum Chambers to be selected.
A £16m transfer and a good performance against Crystal Palace will do that, unfortunately, and already we’ve seen a couple of press articles essentially lauding him as some kind of pre-packaged Bobby Moore.
The mentality around Chambers and England seems to be that rushing the player into a national team shirt has no downside and that the sooner he plays for his country, the sooner his country will have a high-class centre-back. There’s some mileage in that argument and, of course, experience is essential, but don’t be fooled into believing that it’s the no-lose scenario that it’s being presented as.
Since arriving at Arsenal, Chambers has made four competitive appearances. He played well against a disinterested Manchester City at Wembley and extremely competently versus a weak Crystal Palace eight days ago. In the last seven days, however, his age and naivety have been very apparent in the games with Besiktas and Everton, and across those four fixtures he’s realistically had as many bad moments as he’s had good.
That Calum Chambers is a defender of enormous potential is not up for debate, clearly he is, but it’s very important that he isn’t over-exposed at this stage of his career and his confidence isn’t put at risk unnecessarily.
Take yesterday as an example: he did not play well and, subsequently, whatever self-belief has been germinating within him over the past weeks will have been slightly disturbed. A young player’s state of mind is very fragile and it doesn’t take very much to damage his confidence and stall his progression.
So why take a risk with Chambers? Why elevate him to England prematurely if there’s the slightest doubt - which there is - over whether he’s ready for that level?
England had a disappointing World Cup, so I understand the urgency with which people are trying to grasp at ‘new hope’, but this is a player who could potentially provide a decade of quality centre-back play. That’s the priority; let him play for Arsenal and grow into the role of being a Premier League starter for six months-to-a-year, and then start thinking about moving him up. He, in football terms, is a child, and he has never even represented England’s U21s. A centre-back’s theoretical prime occurs between the ages of 28 and 32, and so at 19 there is no time pressure on Calum Chambers’ career.
Meteoric rises are great stories, but they’re not always in the best interests of the player involved. Chambers has had enormous change in his life in a very short space of time, and he’s gone from being a promising Southampton player with less than thirty professional games to his name, to a £16m player at one of the biggest clubs in the country and a prematurely anointed English ‘saviour’ within the space of six weeks.
That’s too much. Why add England to that list?
There’s nothing wrong with being patient, and with England likely to walk through their qualifying group for Euro 2016, there’s no need to burden him with international football at the moment.
He’s in good hands at Arsenal, and he’s playing alongside some terrific mentors in Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, and also getting plenty of first-team football. He’s in a great situation and there’s no need to forcefully accelerate his progress.