Joel Campbell’s meteoric rise this season has drawn comparisons to Francis Coquelin’s similar story just 12 months ago.
Much like Coquelin, Campbell had been farmed out on several occasions. It seemed as if there were an inevitability as to when both players would leave the club. But under Wenger’s watchful eye, the duo have become essential parts of the squad. I don’t think any Arsenal fan would like to see either player leave now, but 18 months ago, 95% will have, including myself.
It highlights the often-uneducated judgement from fans; with Wenger always insisting both players had the quality to remain at the club. Everyone makes mistakes, but after 20 years at Arsenal Football Club, one would be foolish to question Arsene again, especially when it comes to developing players.
With Alexis Sanchez set to return this weekend, Campbell seems the obvious player to make way, but I think the Costa Rica international deserves to keep his place on the right, with Theo Walcott instead dropping out for Alexis.
With Aaron Ramsey now playing centrally, there are three players contending for the right wing position: Walcott, Campbell and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The statistics above highlight how all three players have strengths in different areas, but it is Campbell with the most rounded performance. 2.11 tackles won per 90 minutes is an important statistic, it helps highlight his phenomenal work rate. It is this energy that gives the team balance, with the attacking Hector Bellerin playing at right back. Walcott manages just 0.42 tackles per 90, a stat indicative of his one-dimensional attacking mindset.
The statistics shown above include all data from this season, making Campbell’s case even stronger when you consider Walcott’s good start to the campaign and Joel’s relatively poor one. On form, for me, there is no debate as to who deserves to start.
What’s exciting is the fact Campbell is only 23. With 55 caps for his country and having spent four years on loan, it feels like the Costa Rican is much further along in his career, but he still has time to improve further and reach greater heights.
What really encourages me is Campbell’s desire, when a player visibly works so hard for a team, it reassures the fans. I also had no idea how intelligent he is on the ball. Early in the season, he was nervous, making rushed decisions and made fans feel uneasy when he was on the ball. Now he plays with confidence, notching a few assists that even Mesut Ozil would have been proud of.
Joel still has a long way to go if he is to become as important as Coquelin has, but the early signs are good. Central to progression is attitude and Campbell’s is spot on, hopefully, he can continue to prove the doubters wrong.