Football

Joel Campbell proving his worth to Arsenal with impressive performances

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Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud rightly stole the spotlight for his hat-trick during Arsenal's superb 3-0 win over Olympiacos on Wednesday night.

It was yet another box ticked in his seemingly never-ending quest to convince his critics he is the goalscorer his club desires.

Yet if the French striker's haul against the Greek outfit was unexpected, the performance of a reinvigorated Joel Campbell may give the most room for comfort.

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As they surged forward in Greece, looking for that all important second goal to send them through to the knockout stages, the Gunners needed some magic - and Campbell, when the pressure was on, duly obliged.

As the 23-year-old collected a high ball from Mesut Ozil on the edge of the box, his chances of retaining the ball seemed slight whilst surrounded by a trio of Olympiacos defenders.

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Instead, he controlled the ball comfortably on his thigh and produced a slick drag-back to evade a second challenge. Campbell then waited and waited until he found Giroud making the perfect run, the Frenchman converting from the Costa Rican's slick pass.

In the post-match analysis, Liverpool great Steven Gerrard hailed it 'the assist of the tournament so far'.

It was remarkable skill and composure from the Costa Rica international, who gave yet another display of not only hard work, but tenacity and purpose when attacking or defending for his team.

In football, we see too many instances of promising young talent falling by the wayside - and Campbell was in danger of being one of them. For Costa Rica in the 2014 World Cup, the winger was one of the bright stars throughout, in which his country came agonisingly close to qualifying for their first ever semi-final.

Big things were expected of Campbell thereafter, yet he could not force his way into the Arsenal XI in 2014/15, making just four league appearances and starting none. Fans were quick to jump on his back after he failed to repeat his sparkling World Cup displays.

It looked similar for Campbell at the start of this season until the inevitable Arsenal injury crisis struck. This was the 23-year-old's chance. He may be too young for it to be considered 'now or never', but there was a feeling if he could not take this chance, he may not receive another at the club.

Yet good things come in unlikely packages and much like his teammate Francis Coquelin - now a crucial figure at Arsenal - the mounting injuries have given fringe players like Campbell a chance and he is blossoming as a result. 

"I smelt something with him that is very interesting. The other night he had a positive attitude, he was not only playing safe,” Arsene Wenger said of Campbell after the 3-0 over Dinamo Zagreb.

"He’s creative. I could see that but the creativity is linked with the confidence. You open your eyes when you feel really free to take the initiative. That was a bit of his problem [before]."

Campbell has scored twice in 12 appearances since coming into the Arsenal side this season, as well as two assists. His pace, determination and agility have added something extra to Arsenal and they are qualities his manager always believed he had.

"He has a genuine team attitude and he’s a fighter," Wenger continued. "He can produce the offensive quality.”

During a campaign in which Arsenal have yet again been curtailed by injuries, the Costa Rican's return to form could not be more timely for Wenger and his side. Now, though, he must go on and continue to take his chance if he is to be a regular in the Arsenal XI like Coquelin did a year ago.

The next chapter in the winger's roller coaster career is unclear, but in a season which is bound to be decided by fine margins, it could be a reinvigorated Campbell that makes all the difference.

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Topics:
Arsenal
Thierry Henry
Premier League
Football

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