by Nia Griffiths

At the recent question and answer session with Ray Parlour and Sol Campbell at Arsenal’s home and away PUMA kit launch in India, Big Sol spoke about defensive work and the all-important difference between aggression and controlled aggression.

Campbell was known for being a force on the pitch. He was huge, commanding, strong and fearless. He would put his body, face, head, anything on the line for the good of the team. He was a true defender and captain, and there’s a reason why he’s still regarded an Arsenal legend, despite spending more time at our closest rivals before us.

Speaking about aggression when it comes to being a centre-back, he said, “I think it’s all about controlled aggression. Aggression with no control is just… you need to harness it and I think that, for us, yes we were kind of aggressive but we were also gentlemen at the same time.

“We didn’t go out and try to take players’ careers away. Yes, we tackled hard, yes we played a hard game but then we played a skilful game. It was a balanced kind of play we had. Yes, we had got other players like Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg who didn’t really tackle as much but they added something different to the game.

He added, “So it’s all about balance. If you can’t control aggression you will end up conceding too many fouls or you can’t calm yourself during the right moment and you give away penalties or freekicks in wrong positions.”

Campbell warms during an Arsenal training session in preparation for the Champions League second leg match between Arsenal and Porto
LONDON COLNEY, ENGLAND – MARCH 08: Arsenal defender Sol Campbell warms during an Arsenal training session in preparation for the Champions League second leg match between Arsenal and Porto at the Arsenal training ground on March 8, 2010 in London Colney, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

When quizzed about whether he believed the Invincibles was the last Arsenal team who really executed this controlled aggression he spoke about well, he doesn’t believe so.

“No. They have got aggression but they have got different types of players,” he said. “I think they need a couple of different kinds of players with a different kind of skill set, still top notch. But just different to add that flavour, little bit like Chelsea.

“Chelsea has got that mix of skilful players, steely players, players who could just stick the ball in the net. I think that is balance. We are top heavy with too many skillful players. They need a bit of added ingredient. Someone whose mentality is steely, not only physically but also mentally.”

Finally, on Big Sol’s favourite match during the Invincibles era, he said, “The away game against Manchester United at Old Trafford because of that dubious penalty and that was a defining moment, really, for that could have ended the invincible (run), just there.

“I mean Ruud van Nistelrooy hit the bar and then the famous chop by Martin Keown will go in the history of Arsenal football forever. So that was a game that will definitely stand out for if they had scored that with only two minutes to go, that game was finished.”

Campbell played over 200 matches for us, which seems like nothing compared to the likes of Parlour, who played almost 400, but when you remember what he put into the team, you remember why he’s held in such high regard.

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A twenty-something writer living in North London. Likes caffeine, food that’s bad for her and Arsenal. Dislikes avocados, rudeness and Arsenal.