Let us take a moment to honour the memory of Gabriel Paulista before we begin. Our Brazilian defender has completed a move to Spain where he will join a solid Valencia side and undoubtedly be considered a starter. For Arsenal, his career was one of what ifs. He showed a spine that was often lacking in many recent Arsenal sides but that passion also cost the team at times. His red card against Chelsea, or specifically Diego Costa, hurt Arsenal’s chances at a possible title run. At other times, his defensive brain farts (to use a technical term) personified recent Arsenal sides that could not get out of their own way. He could be top notch defender at Valencia or elsewhere but was never going to be one at Arsenal.
His departure leaves the defensive depth a little younger and seemingly secures the place of a young defender well regarded in the England national youth team. This player was regarded as a good piece of business by Arsene Wenger because, while the fee was high for a player that would not be a starter, it was obvious he would eventually become a stalwart in the back. Despite some struggles for club, he’s excelled for his country and is desired by most clubs if Arsenal sent any signals they’d sell.
I am of course talking about Calum Chambers.
Gabriel’s departure could commence a purge at Arsenal of the mid-career role player and open up more opportunities for the Arsenal youth. Ultimately, this is a good and necessary thing. Take the defence for example. Laurent Koscielny is a stalwart and Shkodran Mustafi albeit disappointing in his first season is still good enough to be an unquestioned (for now) starter in the new back three. The third spot is an opportunity for Rob Holding to prove his worth and, if he falters, Chambers. Both have shown flashes of the greatness that is anticipated for them.
Arsenal’s roster right now is littered with mid-career players who are just good enough, and the question fans and media are asking is “is it time for them to move on?’. The reason why this question is being asked so honestly now is for two reasons. First, Arsenal needs to spend to keep up and to afford the top talent they are chasing, they need to unload some of these players with oversized contracts. At the same time, they finally seem to have enough good young talent in many different positions that these players need first-team playing time. Unlike other London clubs, Arsene doesn’t send players out on loan until he feels he needs them. They sit until they force playing time or are sold. It’s the reason the Gunners lost out on Serge Gnabry.
Now, though, the time may be coming where players like Kieran Gibbs are, while not necessarily surplus, potentially expendable. It will be hard to say goodbye to players Carl Jenkinson, Gibbs, and even The Ox. Yet we may be finally at the point where the Arsenal youth academies can produce talent – or Arsenal can acquire undervalued youth like Holding – to refresh the club. Or maybe they are offloading good squad players so they can save some money. I’m an optimist and think we may be on the verge of seeing some youth players and younger blood like Chambers change the squad for the better.