Fresh from concluding what was their highest ever Premier League finish and generally riding the crest of a wave with the abundance of raw English talent announcing themselves on the south coast, Southampton were duly brought back down to earth with the mass exodus of players that was to follow throughout June and July 2014.
Gone were the likes of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and talisman Rickie Lambert - who had proved instrumental in Southampton’s rise from League One. Even more damaging was the loss of Argentine manager Mauricio Pochettino who joined Tottenham in the close season.
Perhaps the most surprising departure was that of relative unknown Calum Chambers. Nurtured via the Southampton youth academy, the defender offered positional versatility, reinforced with a strong work ethic whereby he was expected to flourish as a future Premier League star.
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However, the 20-year-old was shipped out to Arsenal for a fee rising to £16 million as the chance to work with Arsene Wenger proved too fruitful. The Frenchman seized his chance to allocate Chambers a place in his side and he made a steady start throughout last season.
Fast forward to this campaign and Chambers has rarely been given the chance to demonstrate his skills in Wenger’s side. Nervy performances against Liverpool and Chelsea appear to have halted the growth of the Petersfield-born defender and knocked his confidence somewhat.
With that said, it appears the damaging injury suffered by midfield enforcer Francis Coquelin against West Brom has created a window of opportunity for the almost forgotten man. The Frenchman has been instrumental to Arsenal since his swashbuckling display at the Etihad in January which saw the Gunners run out comfortable 2-0 winners.
The 24-year-old appears irreplaceable and his two-month lay-off has opened up a new can of worms regarding Wenger’s lack of transfer activity in the summer. Disgruntled fans will be demanding a suitable replacement is purchased in January but, based on the past, that cannot be guaranteed.
The main reason for this? Chambers is in the running alongside Mathieu Flamini as they jostle for the void left by Coquelin.
Wenger hinted the former Saint could be given an opportunity in midfield earlier this week:
“We have players who play in this position like Flamini. We have other players who can play in this position, like Chambers because he has been educated as a central midfielder," as reported by the Mirror.
He added: “Sometimes this is a good opportunity for other players to turn up and show they can do the job.”
It would be fair to say Chambers has struggled in his three league appearances this season, but given the chance to shake off the rust and replace nerves with confidence, Wenger might just be praised for this unorthodox move.
The 20-year-old has represented England from U17’s all the way through to the senior side and now it is time for him to demonstrate his worth. He is an imposing character on the field of play and is comfortable with the ball at his feet. With that said, his work ethic and tough-tackling mentality will surely see him become a fan favourite if given the chance.
It would be naïve at this stage to think that Chambers can be the difference in Arsenal sustaining their pursuit for silverware, but with the right encouragement and training there’s no reason why he can’t play his part.
As frustrating as it can be supporting the Gunners, Wenger usually pulls a rabbit out of the hat and it looks like he could be about to do so again.
Obviously, a wallet-busting signing of Morgan Schneiderlin would have sufficed and appeased the Arsenal faithful, however, there is no greater satisfaction then developing a hidden gem already amongst the ranks.
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