Calum Chambers has been assured he will be granted significant opportunities in the Arsenal first team in the new season after the England under-19 international completed his transfer from Southampton in a deal that could end up costing £16m.
Chambers will initially provide cover for another signing, the £10m Mathieu Debuchy, at right-back and will also be utilised at centre-half. Arsène Wenger is convinced the 19-year-old will eventually graduate more permanently into a central midfield berth at the Emirates. While Chambers would expect to feature for Arsenal in domestic cup competitions, he has been told he will play at least 20 senior matches this season, with Arsenal also set to compete in the Champions League.
The defender boasts only 23 first-team appearances, all but one accrued last season at St Mary’s when he started 18 Premier League games. “We are very pleased that Calum has agreed to join us,” said Wenger after adding his fourth recruit of the summer. “The way he adapted to the Premier League last season with Southampton at a young age shows that he has tremendous quality. He has a lot of the attributes that we look for in a young player and I am sure that he will do well with us.”
Chambers, a regular for the national under-19s, is expected to step up into Roy Hodgson’s full England squad in the near future having caught the manager’s eye last season. He will need to feature for his new club to make that step up, though there is confidence he will make an impact. “I am so happy to be signing for Arsenal,” he said. “They are a team I have much admired for their playing style, and a team who have been one of the top sides in Europe for many years.(Wenger) is a fantastic manager and everyone can see that. To get the opportunity to work with him will be amazing.
“The manager has a fantastic history of bringing young players through and nurturing them - and especially from Southampton, as you have seen with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott. I would just like to have the opportunity to follow in their path and be as successful as them. He said that he sees me at right-back, centre-back, holding centre midfield. He sees me in a variety of different positions, which I like, because then I can find out where I am best at and push myself as far as I can go in that position.
“I’m just excited to get started really.
“I’m looking forward to joining up with my new team-mates today and beginning preparation for the season ahead. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone at Southampton for everything they have done for me and for making this move possible.” Chambers follows Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in moving from Southampton to Arsenal.
His departure has maintained the summer’s eye-catching exodus of talent from Southampton, who have now effectively raised more than £90m after selling Luke Shaw to Manchester United and Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren to Liverpool. Tottenham Hotspur retain a serious interest in Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez, while Cardiff have tabled a bid worth around £3m for the Portuguese centre-half, José Fonte. The new Saints manager, Ronald Koeman, has added only Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle from Dutch football to his squad.
“We are naturally disappointed whenever any of our academy graduates leave the club, and that is very much the case with Calum’s departure,” said the Southampton executive director, Les Reed. “Calum made it clear to us that he did not see his future at Southampton. As such, it was crucial that we were able to negotiate a substantial fee that also reflects the work our staff have put into Calum’s development since he joined the club at the age of eight. Our position remains unchanged in that we are determined to keep our best young players at the club, as is evidenced by the decision to award Harrison Reed a new long-term contract last week, adding to the list of committed young professionals like James Ward Prowse, Sam Gallagher, Jack Stephens, Jordan Turnbull, Matt Targett, Sam McQueen and others who have seen plenty of first-team activity recently.
“We have an abundance of talent in the Academy coming through, and everybody at the club is continuing to work hard on bringing in quality new players as we build a team capable of taking us further forward in the coming seasons.
“It is important in the transfer window to remain calm, resilient and above all patient. We have targets, and we are working hard to get them across the line.”
Chambers’ arrival will allow Carl Jenkinson to depart Arsenal in search of more first-team opportunities, with West Ham United and Hull City competing to sign a player capped once by England. Hull have bid £3m, with the Londoners seeking nearer £5m for his signature, and the player is thought to be keen to remain in the capital.