Tag Archives: Joel

Joel Campbell – Arsenal’s Forgotten Man

Did you know that Joel Campbell is now our fourth most capped player – ever?

He earned his 72nd cap as an Arsenal player in the 2-0 loss to England in a pre-Cup friendly which made him our 4th highest at the club, level with David Seaman.

Looking at it from a distance, this is quite some achievement. Yes, Costa Rica doesn’t have a plethora of competition for places like other nations, but a fine injury record and a maintenance of form has seen Campbell rack up the appearances for his home nation.

What really puts it in perspective though, is when you consider how little he has played for his club – and the lengths he has had to go to in order to get gametime.

Campbell has been with us for seven years. That’s a mighty long time, and yet his Arsenal appearances amount to just 23 – most of those during 2014-2016.

To get that crucial time on the pitch, Campbell has gone on loan spells to Ligue Un with Lorient, La Liga with Real Betis and the Greek SuperLeague with Olympiacos – in all of those seasons he earned more starts than in his combined and lengthy Arsenal career.

What has the Costa Rican done to be shunned like this? Is it a limitation on talent? Certainly not. He may not be a permanent starter, but in his time in an Arsenal jersey he showed exactly what he has to offer. He has incredible strength, he can adapt across the forward line, playing wide and cutting in, or ploughing a lone furrow up top. He has an assured touch and isn’t terrible in front of goal. Campbell is more than good enough to be an option in the squad.

Joel Campbell, the forgotten Gunner

And yet we will never see him wearing an Arsenal shirt again. After seven years as an Arsenal player in nothing but contract, Campbell will never play on our Emirates turf.

This will be his second World Cup at just 25 years old. He has amassed experience across many corners of Europe and still has potential, but Campbell has worn an Arsenal shirt for the last time.

If he did manage to assuage Unai Emery to grant him a squad place – a place on the bench would be tough enough to acquire.

As a wide forward, he faces competition from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

As a centre forward, Aubameyang, Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah are his opponents.

With our attack well stocked, it is likely we have seen the last of Joel Campbell, despite it being unconfirmed as I write. He can consider himself unlucky to not have been given a fairer crack of the whip, but the Costa Rican can hold his head up high when he did play for us.

Chances are that Campbell will join Galatasaray, and a lengthy Arsenal career that never truly threatened to take off, for whatever reason that is, draws its curtains.

Joel Campbell on Loan is a Mistake

Sending players on loan when they will struggle to get valuable minutes on the pitch, makes sense.

Instead of letting talent fester as they are stifled in their attempt to grow and flourish, the opportunity to gain valuable experience and more importantly, send a message to their Manager regarding their potential, is an excellent alternative.

Well, our Costa Rican attacker Joel Campbell looks to be heading to Sporting Lisbon for a spell – and his absence may resonate deeply during our campaign.

Last season, his breakthrough was overdue, and it looked as if his displays would have ensured progress at his parent club. 

Campbell made 19 appearances, with three goals bagged last season, but it wasn’t his numbers that impressed Gooners. His work rate, and his tireless efforts to track back were so refreshing after repeated torturous games watching our flanks left gaping open as our attackers left their posts.

He isn’t merely a workhorse though. What has surprised many who saw him in action last season and during the latest bout of pre-season friendlies is his vision and close control. Campbell possesses a pass that can be thread through the smallest of gaps, and it tells of his awarenessas he picks up runners from all angles.

Surely his efforts would be rewarded? Would his performances snare him a squad spot for this coming season? It seemed to all and sundry that it would.

He has certainly put in the work. Four loan spells since his purchase from Costa Rican club Deportivo Saprissa in 2011 – Lorient, Real Betis, Olympiacos and Villareal have all benefitted from his presence – have given him not only made him grow up, but playing amidst different styles means he can adapt his play.

Campbell is not a one-trick pony. Seeing him play on each flank and behind the striker showcase this element of him far better than any words can. So, with all these strengths, and his excellent displays on the pitch, why has he not been given a chance?

Many can see that our manager Arsene Wenger has never been fully convinced by the Costa Rican. Despite Oxlade-Chamberlain being far less efficient with possession, and that Campbell has been far more astute than the young England man, more often than not, The Ox has been given the nod.

Then there is the fact that Wenger loves to fit Aaron Ramsey into his plans. The Welshman is pretty much considered an attacker, but where he is considered most dangerous – Number 10 – is usually filled by the mercurial Mesut Ozil. Throw into the pot that when Ramsey plays on the right he links up brilliantly with Olivier Giroud – and you have a recipe that means Campbell is left in the wilderness.

Campbell could potentially be the answer to our lack of depth in striking options though. He played as a lone striker for his country in World Cup2014, and it saw them reach the knockout stage. 

Playing as a single striker requires strength to hold the ball up, mental strength and spacial awareness. Campbell has these in spades, but even though he has these facets to his play, and he is adaptable, and is dedicated – he still looks in on the Arsenal team from the outside.

There will be a time when Campbell will be needed, just as we did last season – but Campbell wil not be there to rescue us this time. He will be busy plying his trade in Lisbon, and when the injuries mount up and we are crying out for a player to shore up our porous team – Campbell won’t be there.

Wenger may just be clearing room in the squad for another purchase, or he might just be making a huge mistake. 

MLS All-Stars 1-2 Arsenal – 5 Things We Learned

Upon first inspection, Arsenal’s friendly versus the creme of the top flight in the USA on Friday morning (or Thursday night, dependent on location), could be overlooked as a money-spinning exercise, or as an elaborate parade to garner more fans across the globe. 

At the very least, it was a vital warm-up for our players as they slowly ascend the gears and shake off summer excesses, in a bid to fine tune their bodies for another slog of a season. For the competition this coming campaign will be fiercer than ever, so every measure must be taken to ensure optimisation of every asset.

This match represented a notch up from the previous friendly game – the 1-1 draw versus RC Lens last week – so our squad, or at least the men selected to travel across the pond, could see where they needed to work a little harder before ceremonies begin on the 14th August against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

It may be quite difficult to take anything of note from the game, other than our players are being put through their paces – but with a keen eye, there is plenty for us Gooners to suckle upon until we again take to the pitch on Monday the 1st August versus Chivas de Guadalajara. 

So, here at The Hot Stepanovs, we thought we would provide you with a bite-size, handy article which points out what will give Arsene Wenger food for thought, and what us fans can use to soothe us during the traumatic transfer window….

Theo still has low confidence – but there are signs of life.

Theo once again was given the benefit of the doubt –  that heaving, dark doubt that shrouds the majority of fans thinking – and given the sole striker slot. He had three opportunities, and two were off target, with the other drawing a smart save from All-Stars keeper Andre Blake. 

Theo may have failed to register a goal, but he was in the right place to take the chance. His positioning is improving. His runs are being found – and all this without the King of Assists in the team. This isn’t a declaration that Walcott must start, or that he is the striker we need – far from it. 

Just that he shouldn’t be written off. Not at full fitness, in a team that was far removed from what we will field for our season opener, this display was a subtle signal that he has something to offer.

Don’t get carried away with Rob Holding

The boy only completed his move last week, and before he knows what is happening, he is jetted away to San Jose, California, to play the best that Major League Soccer has to offer. 

For such a whirlwind week, Holding did well – and that is the problem. He will either be the next Martin Keown, or consigned to the scrapheap as soon as the smallest mistake rears its ugly head. It is never grey, only black or white.

Holding played well, but it is far too early to gauge where he stands in regard to being able to fill in where necessary in the heart of our defence. Holding must be treated like a goldfish you have just won from the fair – keep it in the bag as you gradually intorduce him to the new water in the shiny tank you’ve bought him. Patience is key, but he did his no prospects no harm.

Holding surprised most of us with his display, especially as he was tasked with some contrasting styles to combat. The guile of David Villa, the trickery of Sebastian Giovinco, and……

Didier Drogba continues to haunt our consciousness

The Ivorian ruined our defence repeatedly whilst plying his trade for Chelsea. He even ruined a few careers too (we remember a Philippe Senderos before Drogba was unleashed upon him). 

The facts spell it out quite clearly. Prior to kickoff in this game, Drogba had plundered fifteen goals in fifteen games against us.

Provided a chance thanks to Sacha Kljestan of NY Red Bulls, he took a few attempts to put it past Petr Cech and Holding, but he did just that. 

That makes it 16 in 16. If Didier Drogba runs a business into his fifties, there can be no guarantee that they will be the ruination of our football club. Everyone needs a nemesis, and Drogba’s campaign to elect himself ours is quite frightening.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is hungry

Against Lens last week, and during the seventy minutes he played in this game, The Ox and his direct manner stood out against the large sedate sections of the game. He took people on, as is his wont, but his end product and composure looked a little more fine tuned. 

Whether it is practice drills, just a flash in the pan, or a little experience seeping through? Who knows. When in full flow though, The Ox provides entertainment. Just enjoy it while it lasts.

Krystian Bielik has been schooled well, it seems.

Much like Dr Dre accuses us of, we forgot about him. Not the good Doctor, no, but Bielik. His time for the reserves has sauteed his talents though, added the spices and taste that he needed. He was alongside Rob Holding at the start of the game, and Bielik looked like he had been playing for many a year. 

Will he even gain a place on the bench? Surely a loan beckons for this young man though, as it is now time where the only thing that can aid his career further is gametime. One thing is for sure, it looks like whatever club is the recipient, they stand to receive a very promising player. 

There were many more pointers that warrant mentioning. The MLS talent pool is quite clearly burgeoning, and the healthy flow of cash can only help attract more to the league. It was a very competitive fixture, and thanks to a few MLS defenders and Francis Coquelin, it meant that the winning mentality was on show from both sides. 

This MLS All-Star team played tottenham this time last year – and won 2-1. Our victory can be written off, but seeing our backup players given a chance to shine – which they duly accepted – and a confidence boosting win in the bag, can only be taken as a positive. 

Joel was again impressive. Akpom scored the winner and Jack managed forty five minutes. All plusses. 

A big thank you to Jeanne. You kept me in the loop until I could get home and glean as much as I could. I doff my cap to you madam!