“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger but recognise the opportunity.” – John F. Kennedy.
Joel Campbell’s first Arsenal goal came at the end of a troubling week for the Gunners, and he certainly seized the opportunity within Arsenal’s latest injury crisis.
England internationals Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere are yet to play this season, Aaron Ramsey picked up an injury in the defeat of Bayern Munich a week and a half ago, and Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain limped off in the loss to Sheffield Wednesday. All three of the players recently injured have been given the mythical ‘three week’ deadline before they return, so we’ll probably never see them again.
So, what to do? Move Kieran Gibbs or Héctor Bellerín into midfield? The former seemed unlikely, the latter a bad idea. Moving Santi Cazorla wide was equally unlikely and unsatisfactory, with Mathieu Flamini the only viable replacement. Right now playing Cazorla with Francis Coquelin is getting us by; Flamini with Coquelin is something nobody needs to see.
Mesut Özil couldn’t be put out wide because he’s Mesut Özil and we badly need him to play wherever he likes without too much defensive responsibility. That way he can drag us through tricky periods, like he did at the Liberty Stadium this weekend.
That left Joel Campbell or Alex Iwobi as the only options, and the Costa Rican justified Arsène Wenger’s decision to give him his first Premier League start.
Don’t read too much into the title of this piece – I just wanted to carry on my tendency of having columns which have poor music/cinema puns – I don’t think Joel Campbell’s great, nor is he ever going to give Arsenal a huge amount, but he’ll have to do for now. If he can continue doing what he did on Saturday, that’s perfect. Hard-working off the ball, sensible on it with some end product. Realistically, Campbell is Wenger’s sixth choice starter on the right flank (after Ramsey, Welbeck, Ox, Wilshere, Walcott) at best so we can’t expect miracles.
Having said that, Héctor Bellerín and Francis Coquelin were nowhere near starting games at the beginning of last season and both are regulars now. It would be an enormous shock if Campbell was in the same position a year from now (he won’t be) but squad players can unexpectedly add more than we originally thought. Now’s his chance to show that he can do that. If he plays well, Arsenal will have another option when the injured players start to return and that will only serve us well, just as it has in the past.
— Ryan Harden (@bry5913) October 31, 2015
Christopher Wreh came into the Arsenal team in the absence of Ian Wright plus one of Nicolas Anelka/Dennis Bergkamp during the title run-in of 1997/98. Closing in on the double, Arsenal could have faltered were it not for the Liberian.
Having made just five Premier League sub appearances all season, Wreh was thrust into the starting line-up eight times between March and May, scoring three times. Two of those goals came in 1-0 wins, against Wimbledon and Bolton.
Both Wright and Bergkamp missed the FA Cup semi-final against Division One side Wolves, and Wreh netted the only goal at Villa Park. Never a regular at Highbury, Wreh scored crucial goals in 1998 but was loaned out to AEK Athens, Birmingham City and FC Den Bosch before leaving north London permanently in 2000.
Fresh when he came into the side and willing to work, he was vital to a tiring team. Joel Campbell’s opportunity has come much sooner than Wreh’s did, but there’s nothing to say he can’t have a similar impact.
The injuries to key players could even prove to work in our favour over the course of a gruelling campaign. As there is still no winter break in England, Aaron Ramsey will now have a month off that he wouldn’t have been afforded without injury; same goes for Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
In Welbeck and Wilshere, Wenger has two versatile options who could yet feature prominently for half a season with the benefit of being completely fresh when others are flagging.
For now, Joel Campbell just has to hold down the fort. Should he do so (on the condition everyone else performs as well) Arsenal should be in a fantastic position and will have players returning with hunger and none of the mental (or physical fatigue) that will be weighing down everyone else in the squad and the Premier League.
Our injury crisis may have given Joel Campbell, and Arsenal, a number of opportunities. We just need to take advantage of them.