On the 19th of August in 2011, Arsenal revealed they had signed the Costa-Rican wonder-kid going by the name of Joel Campbell. Granted, it wasn’t the most excited transfer of the window and it wasn’t one to bring the title to the Emirates, but another hot prospect nonetheless. Eight days later and pretty much every Arsenal fan had forgotten the teenager’s name, and a failure to secure a British work-permit, Joel Campbell, like many other young Gunners, was shipped out on loan, in this case to a club association link: FC Lorient.
FC Lorient are a highly regarded club by Arsenal, known as a feeder-club, they have provided us with the likes of the world-class Laurent Koscielny and the highly regarded French youngster Yaya Sanogo, the aforementioned the better purchase so far. So maybe it was time to return the favour, and off went Joel Campbell to the first division of France to gain some first team action under his belt. By this time, Joel Campbell had represented Costa Rica’s U17’s and U20’s making a combined total of 22 caps and scoring an impressive 18 goals. Quite something for the lad, eh? Anyway, after a few months in France, Campbell seemed to be proving his worth. His direct approach to running at opposition defenders and his tantalising footwork proved a real talent within the midst of Ligue 1, but a lack of goals in his 25 appearances showed his inexperience and rash decision-making in front of goal. Despite this, he bagged three goals over the campaign, including an important winner vs Montpellier. Returning to Arsenal, Joel Campbell had gained a certain confidence about his ability, but something not to convince Arsene Wenger that he was ready, despite making his Costa Rica full international debut in 2011.
A season later, another loan later, and Real Betis this time was the destination. The Spanish League, alongside the French League is a lot different to the Premier League, but the slower style suits Arsenal’s patient play. So the move definitely made sense, and would allow Joel Campbell to develop his style further in a different environment. He only scored twice this time, in 28 first team appearances, where he became a vital member to the Betis squad in their successful season in La Liga. Once again, this was not enough to convince Arsene Wenger, but after finally being granted his work-permit, maybe it was the right time for Joel to return to the red and white of Arsenal.
Instead of this, it was the red and white that Joel Campbell would play in, just this time it was Olympiacos. This was where the young talent showed off his developing style of play, playing as a striker, and often a wide forward for the Greek champions. Enduring a clinical season, Joel Campbell, who recently bagged himself his 30th cap for his country, faced his biggest challenge of his career so far: facing Manchester United at home in the Champions League. To me, this was the loan that made the biggest sense for Joel. The winger had shown he was capable competing in an average team and proving to be the star focal point, but to play for a title-winning side and a Champions League team, he had one hell of a step up. But boy did he take it well… The last 16 of the Champions League. 1-0 up. Joel Campbell received the ball, continued on to nutmeg Michael Carrick before curling a sensational effort from 25 yards out past David De Gea to make it 2-0, leaving his mark on the English club. This, in my opinion, was the cry to Wenger that was needed, urging the Frenchman to bring him back to London.
We finally saw the devastating performances that Joel could provide in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, as his Costa Rican team proved to be one of the surprising performers of the competition. It meant he would arrive late to Arsenal’s pre-season, but due to his fine performances it looked as if Wenger would be fending off loan offers for the first time to keep him at the Emirates.
But since then… where’s he gone? I seem to remember him putting in an awesome shift versus Benfica in the Emirates cup. I mean, remember that scorching volley he scored across goal in the first half? He also delivered quite the performance when he came on versus Manchester City in a big event like the Community Shield at Wembley. Joel made a positive impact in the home draw with Hull, and the only positive from the game seems to be that he may well be in Wenger’s plans. However, maybe it seems that maybe Wenger should have loaned out Joel Campbell, but this time to a Premier League club, as he hasn’t really had his chance so far this season.
Maybe it’s because Wenger doesn’t see him as experienced as the other options Arsenal have in their cavalry. The Ox, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez have all played a significant part this season in helping Arsenal go unbeaten so far in the Premier League, with Joel Campbell watching on from the sidelines. But Joel has played in some big matches thus far in his career, and at the age of 22, now is the best time to be readying him for his huge development when he reaches his prime.
He NEEDS game time, and I don’t mean 15 minutes from the end at home to Hull, I mean a full Premier League start against Sunderland or Burnley. Arsenal are currently crying out for a more direct style of play, missing the likes of Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry, the Gunners lack pace on the flanks when playing Santi Cazorla or Mesut Ozil in this position. He brings flair, pace, power and his end product has distinctively improved over the course of three years, and I wouldn’t put it past him to be the player to score a worldy from next-to-nothing when we most need a last-gasp winner.
Joel Campbell cannot be an international player all his life and never be given a chance at club level, maybe he should be introduced and not regret the chance to move to Benfica on a seasons long loan in the summer of 2014. So if you’re reading this Wenger, the boy is ready, more ready than ever for his chance to leave a mark on the Premier League. He has goals, assists and performances just waiting to unleash for Arsenal, and with time, he can become a star.