Fresh Arsenal spoke exclusively to Arsenal legend, Sol Campbell, whilst at the Emirates Stadium as he launched Europcar’s Fans Of The Season campaign.
The Invincible had plenty to get off of his chest on Sunday afternoon, as he gave his opinion on the current squad as well as reminiscing over some of his standout moments as a player.
And that of course all began as the 41-year-old made the controversial switch from North London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur back in 2001, much to the elation of the Arsenal fans.
Whilst playing at the heart of the Gunners defence over a five-year spell, Campbell achieved five major trophies, including that 2001/02 double in his very first season.
He was a standout figure in the Invincible’s side that went 49 Premier League games unbeaten, a record that looks almost impossible to catch in these days of football.
We sat down with Sol after the event kicked off to talk about the high points of his career, and whether missing the game fuels a desire to have changed some things during his playing days.
So Sol, we always talk about the positives of joining Arsenal, but do you have any regrets of leaving Spurs?
I don’t think I have regrets as such, there was not much happening there, I mean the organisation, training ground, identity, there was a lot of stuff going on that was not actually helping to produce results. Managers coming in and out, this was a top side who were not putting money into the club to buy players, they wouldn’t stick their neck out.
The whole structure was not there, it was almost as if they were living off from the 60’s, fantastic football and at the time there actually was some very good players at Tottenham. But to actually bring it together on a sustained approach every season to be in a chance of actually winning something, it just wasn’t there.
The constant adaptation, did it become a frustration?
I was playing on just talent, there was no structure and for every manager that came along I had to change. We had talent, but talent needs structure whatever it is; to win a game or however you want to kind’ve look at it, there’s got to be structure for good players to get in and then ultimately work together to win cups, win leagues. That was never in place.
What was the underlining factor that brought you to Arsenal, what attracted you?
I think, obviously the players, and David Dein was very instrumental with Arsene, it was that it was safe, they knew what they were doing and wanted to look after me. It wasn’t about money, they wanted to see how far I could go in my football career and David Dein is very good at all of that business.
Did you feel more wanted at the Gunners then?
Well, the beautiful thing about David Dein is that he loves the club and he is aware of how important that type of process is, knowing how you get players in. He’s very good at talking to players, agents and presidents and it’s a shame he’s not back in any capacity at present because he’s very good at that.
Just making me feel welcome, he was very clever and he got this place going (Emirates Stadium) and I think if we didn’t have a person like him we wouldn’t be here right now.
If there was one thing during your time at Arsenal you could have changed, what would it have been?
I think it goes back to the European Cup final, those moments when Larsson came on, he changed the game for them and looking back we should’ve really locked him down a little bit earlier. He allowed us to drag out in these wide areas and leave space so that’s where most of the chances came from because when he came on he changed the dynamics of the match.
That’s the one thing I’d change, just let him go out wide because he left open spaces in the middle and that’s how they definitely scored their winner.
When Larsson came on, did the team talk to each other, did anything change on the pitch?
No, you know since he left Celtic he popped to different clubs and did really well, he was very successful and we should’ve done a little more homework on his runs. I got sucked out for one of his passes and we just weren’t together as a unit, it was almost as if I should’ve allowed him to drift out. He’s a top, top centre forward and he did the job for Barcelona, just organising and moving and creating space for others.
When you returned to play for the club in 2010, did you notice any changes in momentum or perspectives?
There was a different dynamic altogether, there were another 100 coaching staff for starters! I just didn’t want them to lose the soul because it was my understanding that you need all of those ingredients to make a really good club, it’s not just business.
I think they (Arsenal) are starting to come back, they’re embracing the older players who are returning/visiting, just look at Gilberto becoming a member of the 100 club the other day, so I feel they’re starting to see the benefit of the gentlemen and the quality they had at this football club.
Finally Sol, who from the current squad is capable of making it into that Invincible’s side?
I think Alexis, I like him a lot but other than that it’s hard to find a space for anyone. Maybe Ozil could slot in but you’d have to take out Pires. You’ve got Henry, Bergkamp, Gilberto, Seaman and me of course who are all in there. It was a very good side.
The presenter of Europcar’s event then kicked off an open Q&A for the rest of the guests to ask any individual questions they may have had still itching at the top of their heads.
Fans of young and old attended the event as well as several other Arsenal related blogging sites, and they didn’t hold back on returning to the controversial topic of that Spurs move.