Joel Campbell has certainly made waves at this World Cup, and his exciting contributions have helped see his side through to the quarter-finals, despite the fact that they were in the ‘group of death’ consisting of giants England, Italy and Uruguay.
Understandably, most Arsenal fans are clamouring for the 22 year-old to return to the Gunners’ ranks as soon as possible. Arsenal acquired the forward in 2011 but he has never donned the red and white of the Emirates; instead he was sent out on three successive loan spells with other clubs in Europe.
There were initially some work permit issues that prevented Campbell from playing in England, but when he was finally granted a permit in 2013 – after two loan spells in France and Spain respectively – Arsene Wenger still insisted he be loaned out for a third time to Greek club Olympiacos. His spell with Olympiacos was also his most impressive, scoring eight goals in 32 appearances, including a wonder strike to seal the first-leg win against Manchester United in last season’s Champions League.
His contributions for Costa Rica in this year’s World Cup certainly bolstered his growing reputation as an up-and-coming forward, but it remains doubtful whether Wenger would give him the nod for Arsenal. Wenger has already confirmed that Campbell will join the north London club in their pre-season preparations, but that suggests little as to what next season holds for Campbell as he could still be loaned out for yet another term.
He would indubitably provide Arsenal with a different attacking option to that of Olivier Giroud – the club’s only remaining recognised striker after Nicklas Bendtner made his long-awaited exit. Although Giroud is a good centre forward with solid aerial ability and fantastic hold-up play, he lacks the pace and inventiveness that Arsenal have always enjoyed in their strikers. Campbell will add pace to the attack and he certainly has an eye for a key pass, as he has proven during the current World Cup, particularly in the 3-1 win over Uruguay.
Arsenal could definitely have made use of these attributes last season, either in the centre forward role or right wing, especially in the absence of Theo Walcott on the right wing. Even with Walcott returning, Campbell could yet make a difference, particularly in those games where Wenger needs something different to Giroud’s hold-up style.
Another scenario would be for Wenger to revert back to the old 4-4-2 formation and play both men up front, incorporating Campbell’s pace and tricky dribbling with Giroud’s aerial threat and clever running.
However, it is yet to be seen how the Costa Rica international will slot into the rigours of the Premier League and life in England. Playing well in a tournament is one thing, but showing consistency over the course of a season in a league as tough as England’s is another.
The fact of the matter is that his overall record does not yet warrant a first team place for him at Arsenal, certainly not as a lone centre forward. With competition on either wing in Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the young Serge Gnabry on the right, and Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski on the left, Campbell will find it tough to secure a starting berth.
Wenger will mostly likely opt to keep Campbell on the fringes at first, playing him in less important matches and League Cup games, and the young man, being used to a guaranteed first place – even for his country – might get frustrated. He will want first team football to build on his successes of last season and the World Cup and another loan spell may well be on the cards.
However, the young forward’s exploits during the World Cup is likely to attract much attention from other suitors and if Arsenal do decide to send him out on loan once more, they’ll do well do tie him down to a new contract.
Whether Campbell plays for Arsenal or as loanee in the 2014/15 season, he is certainly an exciting prospect for the club and should be nurtured accordingly. In fostering and developing players into superstars, particularly forwards, there is no better man for the job than Monsieur Wenger – as his record will show – and Mr. Campbell is most probably aware of the fact.
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