There is a school of thought that says Alexis Sánchez is the most important signing Arsene Wenger has made in the last fifteen years. It’s hard to fight their logic – our attack suffered a lot last season due to the absence of pacey strikers to exploit the perfect passes of Mesut Özil, his dribbling is something that we haven’t had since Nasri’s departure, his burst of pace and ability to score goals in big matches is something since Henry’s legs had switched off and he is only 25.
However, I see a player in our squad that might turn out to be even better piece of business than the flamboyant Chilean (at least when economical factors are taken into equation, that is). His name is Joel Campbell.
I was petrified at the possibility that Campbell leaves Arsenal in order to help us get Mario Balotelli. Don’t get me wrong: football-wise, there is very few players in the world that offer talent, pace, goals and youth in the same package like Balotelli does. The problem occurs, however, when you use a famous “Hot & Crazy” scale (introduced in the “How I Met Your Mother” TV-show) – Balotelli offers far more craziness than hotness on the pitch.
Campbell has shown a lot of positive signs this year. His left foot is a deadly weapon, his composure is impressive (his volley against Benfica was a joy to watch for many reasons including Hector Bellerin’s perfect cross) and his pace and passing offer extra-options in attack. He seems like a clever lad who likes to make runs behind the defence which is something we didn’t have last season with Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott both on the sidelines. His intelligence makes him a perfect foil for another extremely intelligent player – Ramsey and this might be the connection that will bring us a lot of pleasure next season.
If he succeeds at the Emirates, Joel Campbell will become the third Campbell to make an excellent career at Arsenal in the Premier League-era.
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Kevin Campbell was the first. His career started before the Premier League was introduced – Campbell won the First Division with Arsenal in 1991 and was part of the team that won the cup double in 1992-93 (FA Cup and League Cup). He was also part of the team that won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1993-94 with a victory over Parma. Campbell was a very good striker but his career at Arsenal was effectively over when a world-class striker – the one and only Dennis Bergkamp – arrived.
Campbell can be proud of his career though – he has been among the 21 players to score four or more hat-tricks in the Premier League-era and one of only five players to score hat-tricks for three different clubs (Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and Everton respectively).
Sol Campbell’s transfer has been arguably the biggest surprise Arsene Wenger has ever delivered to us. Campbell – who had captained Spuds before he signed for Arsenal as a free player – became our defensive rock, the last piece of the puzzle that Wenger had been solving between 1999 and 2001. Vieira was there to boss the midfield, Pires was there to add creativity and unpredictability to our attacking game, Bergkamp – who had fell on the margins before 2001-02 – was there to repeat his best days and Henry was there to kill off all opponents that dared to challenge the mighty Arsenal.
Campbell’s arrival meant that the Gunners got someone to defend, to take the leadership in the back-line from Tony Adams. Campbell’s presence was something that you can’t find these days. Former Sheffield United’s defender Goce Sedloski once said that he had never seen a player that was physically bigger than Sol Campbell and that’s something that ought surprise nobody. Every time he was wearing our shirt, I thought it would crack due to Campbell’s staunchness. The fact we got such a player from the Spuds for free makes the story about Campbell even greater.
He commanded our defence during the double in 2001-02 and the invincible season in 2003-04. Unfortunately, his opener against Barcelona in Champions’ League Final 2006 wasn’t enough for our victory but doesn’t change the fact that Sol Campbell was one of the greatest Arsenal and English defenders of all time.
Now, it’s up to Joel whether he is going to become a member of The Campbell Trinity. He has all ingredients to succeed, his destiny is in his hands!