Joel Campbell has largely been an enigma so far at Arsenal. Since joining the club in August 2011 the young Costa Rican striker has spent more time on loan to other clubs than in an Arsenal shirt. Four years later and he is yet to establish himself as a regular first team player. He has produced moments of magic however which give Arsenal fans hope he can blossom into a regular contributor for the team. But will he get this chance under Arsene Wenger? Or is it up to Campbell to secure his Arsenal future?
Campbell has shown his talent with a productive loan spell with Olympiacos for the 2013-14 season, which he built on with an impressive display for Costa Rica as they defied the odds and reached the 2014 World Cup quarter finals. So just why has he not been able to reproduce this form in an Arsenal shirt?
The most obvious explanation is that he simply hasn’t been given a long run of games to find form and adjust to the Arsenal style of play. It’s been difficult for Campbell to break into the first team when Arsenal has the likes of Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck to pick from to play in the central striker role.
Arsenal’s favoured formation of 4-2-3-1 makes it very hard for their strikers to get into the first team with only a central striker role which is typically either Olivier Giroud or Theo Walcott. Since returning from various loan spells at the end of the 2013 season, Campbell has only made 19 appearances for Arsenal. He has primarily been used in cup competitions such as the F.A. and League Cups.
For Campbell it has been extremely hard to find form when he’s consigned to rare substitute appearances, as he played in ten games last season without scoring before being loaned to Villareal in January. This season has seen a glimmer of hope for Campbell, as an injury crisis meant he made his first Premier League start in the team’s 3-0 win against Swansea on the 31st October, another milestone game for him as he scored his first competitive goal for Arsenal too.
He subsequently built on this upturn in form with another impressive performance in their crucial Champions’ League group stage fixture against Dinamo Zagreb, where he provided a great assist for the third goal and provided much needed creative spark for Arsenal.
But is this enough to secure his Arsenal? Or will he find himself much like former team mate Lukas Podolski, who struggled to find regular first team football and was eventually sold to Galatasaray this summer. Based on his current production for Arsenal you could suggest Campbell is unlikely to remain at the Emirates beyond his current contract.
But with glimpses of potential from the young 23 year old, it suggests he’s worth taking a gamble on and letting him fully develop and see whether he can turn these glimpses into a regular run of good form. He has made progress already for Arsenal this season, but is he progressing fast enough to remain in contention for a regular place in the first team? That question can only be answered by Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff.
Whilst Wenger has built his reputation on developing young talent and turning them into stars, with the increasing demands for immediate success at the top Premier League, does Wenger have the time to nurture a talent like Campbell? Especially when considering Arsenal now has to money to simply go out and buy a well proven striker should they wish, pushing the likes of Campbell further down the pecking order at Arsenal. Campbell will likely have the rest of this season and possibly next season to prove his worth at Arsenal, and it will be up to him to show Arsene Wenger and the owners that he is worthy of remaining an Arsenal. Will he be able to prove his worth or will he fail to live up to his potential?
Featured image: all rights reserved by Lloyd Morgan.