Arsenal forward Joel Campbell secured his fifth loan move of his Arsenal career when he signed for Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon on a season-long loan. Campbell has been a player who spent the major part of his career at North London being on the sidelines got his chances somewhat to feature for the team last season as he made 30 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners. In his five-year spell at the club, the Costa Rican player has had loan spells in France, Spain and Greece. After his impressive displays in the FIFA World Cup 2014, Arsene Wenger decided to feature the forward in his plans for the 2014/15 season. Campbell made only 4 league appearances that term and was loaned to Villarreal in January.
Last season, the forward enjoyed far more exposure in the first team making 11 starts in the Premier League of the 19 times he featured and contributed by scoring 3 goals with 2 assists. He was also used more frequently in the Champions League by Arsene Wenger playing 268 minutes in total of 5 games providing 2 assists as well, one of which was particularly notable against his former side Olympiacos.
Campbell enjoyed his spell at a time when Arsenal had several absentees from its first team due to injuries. As soon as the likes of Alexis Sanchez or Theo Walcott regained their fitness, he was back on the bench. Later, even academy product Alex Iwobi surpassed him and pushed him further down the pecking order.
The South American, from his early days, was a player renowned for his versatility. At Arsenal, he won a lot of praise for his work rate and defensive discipline which he constantly displayed during the matches. The fans always like that kind of a player who tends to do a little extra in terms of helping out his teammates but the bigger problem was always with his tactical maturity.
The Costa Rican never looked like a player who is ready to demand a first team place with his performances. It must be noted that for an attacker, his influence and contribution in the forward areas are counted not how he tracks back to cover his fullback on the side. While work rate is very important in the modern game, Campbell’s passing, movement and shooting were below par on most occasions which have been the sole reason for the player not being considered as a regular by the manager and coaches despite being somewhat of a fan favourite.
Even after his loan move was announced there were reports of anger amongst the Gooners so much as to Arsenal in fact considered pulling the plug on the deal. While, there’s little doubt that Campbell is a very good option to have in your ranks, he is still not at the level to play week in week out in the Premier League. When Arsenal had an injury crisis up front he featured and played decently.
Campbell is still a young player at 24 years old and needs game time which he won’t get at North London so a move away is the best for all parties. It is significant that the club has decided to loan him so many times and not sell him which is an indication that Arsenal still feel that the player will develop into an asset for the team in the future. Diego Costa was sent 5 times on loan before he finally developed into a quality centre-forward and Atletico Madrid reaped the rewards later from those loan moves they sanctioned for the player. The same might happen for Arsenal also as in the near future these loan moves can be the turning point in Joel Campbell becoming the player his employers dream of.