Arsenal looked into recalling Calum Chambers in January, according to David Ornstein in a recent appearance on the Arseblog podcast.
Going into the January transfer window, it seemed like Arsenal might make a defensive signing. Unai Emery confirmed the club were looking for reinforcements in the centre-back position, as well as out wide, but then the focus shifted solely towards wingers by the end of the window.
Denis Suarez, Christopher Nkunku, Yannick Carrasco and Ivan Perisic all had transfer sagas going on into the final days of January, but the only defender even worthy of a gossip piece linking him to Arsenal was Gary Cahill.
Speaking in the Arseblog podcast, which you can listen to in full by following the link, David Ornstein confirmed that Arsenal never came close to making a defensive signing. In fact, the only option they seriously investigated was recalling Calum Chambers from his loan, before eventually deciding against it.
“The only name who really cropped up on [the defensive] front was Calum Chambers and that Arsenal had vaguely explored the possibility of bringing him back from his loan deal at Fulham,” Ornstein revealed.
“However, that would’ve incurred a fee, because he’d played a certain number of games that would’ve triggered a recall fee. So that was pretty quickly shelved, given that Arsenal’s priority with this small amount of money was to perhaps bring in some reinforcements that could really help them in a more attacking sense.”
Presumably, Ornstein means to say that Arsenal put clauses in their loan deals, allowing them to recall players who aren’t getting any games. As Chambers has become a key part of the Fulham team under Claudio Ranieri, he must have surpassed that minimum-appearance target pretty easily.
You might be wondering why Arsenal wouldn’t go for another defender when their Chambers investigations didn’t work out. Ornstein explains that there was a worry about filling the club with vast numbers of defenders they’d then struggle to move on in the summer.
“There was no real talk of a defensive piece of recruitment and I think that’s mainly based on numbers rather than quality,” Ornstein continued. “Arsenal aren’t stupid, they know there are defensive issues, but they also have a vast number of players, some of whom will be returning from injury.
“It was seen that a January signing would leave them with a difficult problem come the summer of having to shift a number of players. Perhaps this (a defensive signing) is one they’re looking to sort out in the summer and a department they’ll be focusing on then.”
It’s a fair point, as Arsenal are really lacking in defensive quality, not quantity. Come the summer window, the club may well have Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Krystian Bielik, Julio Pleguezuelo (if he extends his deal as reported) plus youth prospects like Zech Medley, Daniel Ballard and Joseph Olowu.
That’s before we even get into players who have filled in at centre-back before, like Nacho Monreal, Mohamed Elneny, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Granit Xhaka.
The problem is that most of those 16 options are either ageing, inexperienced, injury-prone or just not good enough. It’s a problem the club really do need to work on solving this summer.