1st November 2015: Can Campbell play his way into first-choice permanence?

Welcome back. So another weekend comes to a close having seen Arsenal pick up all three points to stay firmly in contention for the Premier League title.

Thoughts will start to turn soon to Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Bayern Munich, but not before we reflect back on another fine domestic performance by the Gunners yesterday, and one player in particular.

Going into the game, all the talk revolved around whether Joel Campbell could perform after Arsene Wenger indicated the Costa Rican would be given the nod to start at his press conference on Friday. Well, just like last year with Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin, our injury crisis appears to have provided a platform for a new star to rise.

Of course it’s only one game and Campbell will be judged over a far longer stretch of time, but his performance yesterday was more than promising. Both defensively and offensively, I thought Campbell contributed hugely to our win over Swansea at the Liberty Stadium and speaking to Arsenal Player after the game, the forward revealed his joy at being given a first-team chance. He said:

I’m very happy. I had to wait for this moment and now we have to keep working to strengthen our team. I’m very happy but the important thing is the team wins. We had a good game so we have to keep going and prepare for the next game against Bayern Munich. The fans were incredible. They supported us the whole game and it was very important for us.

So not only is Campbell a team player on the pitch, he’s also tuned into the collective cause in his outlook, which bodes very well indeed. One big reason Coquelin has enjoyed such a meteoric rise in both his standing at the club and the level of affection for him from the fans, is his non-stop work-rate. So if Campbell can, at the very least, maintain his levels of effort in both yesterday’s game and last Tuesday’s against Sheffield Wednesday, he’s got a very good chance of emulating Coquelin’s emergence as a permanent first-team fixture.

That may sound ludicrously premature to say, but to me there’s no reason why Campbell can’t aspire to such a lofty achievement. With everyone fit, and assuming the likes of Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere are viewed as central options, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are probably first and second pick respectively, in Arsene’s thinking for the right-sided role.

But seeing as the former freely admits he prefers playing in the middle and the Ox’s struggles for form, it’s not unreasonable to think that Campbell has a genuine chance to make the role his own if he plays well enough over the next few weeks. If Coquelin and Bellerin can usurp experienced players like Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy in the manager’s estimation, why can’t Campbell do something similar?

Arsene clearly holds Campbell in very high regard already, as he highlighted again after the game yesterday, saying:

He had to wait, to be patient, to get a chance and he was always on the waiting list. He got through a few countries but he is still very young and I never let him go as I feel he is a good player and on top of that he is a team player. Today he scored one but he could have scored more so that is something very interesting. You see when he has good players around him he is a good player.

As his manager mentions at the end there, Campbell appears to be yet another example of how mixing with higher quality team-mates can raise a player’s level. I think that applies whether you’re having a kick-about with mates at the local park, or at a professional level at the top of the game.

All that said however, it’s worth repeating that Joel has it all still to prove. Playing against one of the very best teams in club football, Bayern, on Wednesday, will of course be another big test for him, providing he’s picked of course. But another defensively diligent display which is combined with a genuine threat on the counter like yesterday, and Campbell will have taken another huge step in carving out a long-term future at the club and possibly even a regular slot in our first-choice selection.

Until tomorrow.

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