Arsene Wenger has compared the sudden emergence of Joel Campbell to that of Francis Coquelin and has confirmed he is in talks to keep the Costa Rican at the club.
Campbell tried his best to seal an exit away from the Emirates in the summer, firmly believing that his first-team opportunities would be limited. Indeed, the season prior to the current one saw him sit on the bench for the first half and join Villarreal on loan for the second.
But a series of injuries gave Campbell an opportunity to impress, which he well and truly took. He now finds himself ahead of even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the pecking order and has been tipped to start in Wednesday's game against Liverpool.
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As Wenger paid homage to, it is a very similar story to that of Coquelin, who also took advantage of an injury crisis to become a first-team regular last season. But it hasn't come as a surprise to the Gunners boss, who firmly believed Campbell had the quality.
“I flat refused to let him go because I saw something in him that gives you belief, because of his attitude,” he told the Telegraph. “It is true he had players in front of him and you think 'can you block a player like that?' He came back and I explained the situation to him. I said: ‘Let’s have a go and see where we stand in January’. It’s a bit similar to Coquelin.
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“What is very interesting in Campbell's case is that he looks like he has gained more confidence and authority in his game and in the final third he is a dangerous player. You want to be surprised by the quality of your players and where he surprises you is in the intensity of his team-work.”
But, inevitably, there is a problem on the horizon. Campbell's contract expires at the end of the season and he could negotiate a pre-contract with foreign clubs now. Plenty of clubs would be ready to offer him a lucrative deal as well as guaranteed first-team football to steal him away, but Wenger is working hard to convince him to stay.
"After Olympiakos, in a game where we were knife on the throat, he turned up with something special."
“I hope so," Wenger said when asked if Campbell would sign a contract extension. "I thought always the attitude was there. But after Olympiakos, in a game where we were knife on the throat, he turned up with something special. Then I thought: ‘He can play under pressure as well, which is important for us’.”
“Today, you are in the starting line-up and tomorrow you are on the bench."
But Campbell, obviously not convinced by his foray in Arsenal's first XI, seems uncertain of his future. With plenty of offers likely to be on the table, he appears ready to consider all options before committing to a long-term contract at the Emirates.
"It can change from one day to the following one - you’re here today but you do not know where you are tomorrow,” Campbell said. “Today, you are in the starting line-up and tomorrow you are on the bench. Football is about moments and you have to take them.”
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