It’s the 73rd minute and down upon the St Mary’s touchline, ex-Saint Calum Chambers is preparing for his return. Throughout the game, there had been applause for Theo Walcott and a warm reception for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, yet Chambers was met by a chorus of boos. Why?
Having broken into the first team under Mauricio Pochettino, Chambers went on to make 22 appearances during the 2013/14 season – this was all whilst in competition with Nathaniel Clyne. Southampton fans had been greatly impressed with the full back’s defensive capabilities and were excited for what the next season may hold. However, when Pochettino walked out the door and the club’s finest talents were stripped, Arsene Wenger came calling.
The opportunity to work under a manager of Wenger’s class and status is a footballing honour. As much as we moan that our players are jumping ship and leaving something special, with players like Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in Arsenal’s ranks, things are rather special there too. It’s not hard for a managerial great like Wenger to sway the mind of a 19-year-old, especially whilst he watches his manager-less club seemingly come crashing down. The current Arsenal squad, players of the past and some of the greatest players to ever grace the pitch sing the Frenchman’s praises for a reason. No blame here.
But what about game time? Was this a financially motivated move? Southampton fans have certainly suggested it and to that, I say, no chance.
To begin with, Pochettino was effectively alternating between Chambers and Clyne. A staggering number of people seem to be implying that Chambers was taking the jump from an integral, 40 game-a-season player, into a Capital One/FA cup back up. Not so; during his debut season at Arsenal, he went on to make 23 appearances.
With the combination of an impressive performance against Bournemouth and a sudden drop of form in Mathieu Flamini, Chambers will now look to make his mark on the first team once more.
Add to that the fact that Arsenal pick up injury, after injury, after injury. With Chamber’s able to play at right back, centre back and as a defensive midfielder, there is always a window of opportunity for this versatile youngster. His mind is certainly focused on his football.
Finally, and most importantly, however, Southampton never objected to this move. The board were happy to conduct business with Arsenal and that saw a handsome £16M transaction take place for a player that wasn’t the first choice right back. Astute business once again from Southampton.
Our fans anger and judgment toward Calum Chambers is implicitly linked to one horrible, painful summer. We’ve dragged a nice and respectable young player who was presented an incredible opportunity into the same category as liars, players who refuse to play and players who bad mouthed the club. The money was right, the negotiations were honest and had this not deal not taken place in such a dark period for the club, we would have all wished him well. So, upon Chamber’s next return to St Mary’s, have a moment’s thought and change the tune for a young man trying to chase his dream.