Calum Chambers has backed himself to get back in Mikel Arteta’s starting lineup but he admits his ruptured ACL came at a bad time.
The 25-year-old had played as a centre-back in 14 of the Gunners’ 20 Premier League games last season when he suffered the injury in Mikel Arteta’s second match in charge against Chelsea.
It had been his best run in the Arsenal first team since 2014/15 when he predominantly played right-back.
The defender subsequently underwent surgery in January and spent 10 months on the sidelines before making his return in last week’s Europa League win over Rapid Vienna.
That Chambers had to undertake a portion of his rehab at home due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions has added to a testing year but he’s optimistic about the future.
“It’s been an experience and a hell of a journey,” he reflected ahead of Thursday’s game with Dundalk.
“Obviously, a lot has happened during this time, at the football club and in the world I guess. And going through this kind of rehab.
“I spent two and a half months at home, with the lockdown. That in itself was an experience, going through an important phase of my rehab at that time, my strength phase and doing all that from home and being on FaceTime with the physios every other day. So it’s been a journey, one I’ve learnt from and come out stronger from for sure.”
He added: “It’s never a good time to get this injury but unfortunately it fell at a bad time for me. I was playing week in week out in the team in a position that I’ve wanted to play for a long time now, so it fell at a bad time. But now it’s about getting my fitness back, getting my match sharpness back and being patient with the process.
“I know it takes a long time with an injury like this to get back where you were. But I need to keep my head down, keep working hard, wait for my opportunity and every opportunity I get, just give it everything I can.”
Since Chambers’ injury, the Gunners have signed three further centre-backs – William Saliba, Pablo Mari and Gabriel – and regularly fielded Kieran Tierney as part of a three-man backline. With Rob Holding, David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi offering further competition, he may have to bide his time for a chance in the Premier League.
On whether he’s discussed his future with the boss, he said: “We’ve had a few conversations. Obviously, wherever he sees my strongest position I will play and give it 100 per cent.
“I like centre back and if I get to play there then great. If the boss wants me to play at full back I will play there as well. So wherever the team needs me I will give 100 per cent in every game.
“As I said there’s never a good time for an injury like this, but the timing was bad. We all love the philosophy and the way he coaches and the way he wants to play. He wants ball-playing centre halves and that’s what I see myself as.
“So I like to think I fit into his plans. As I said before, it’s a case of me being patient and getting back to the level I was at before. And every opportunity I get given, just give it 100 per cent and do the best I can.”