Arsène Wenger is set to hand Joel Campbell is first Premier League start on Saturday afternoon, and is backing the Costa Rican to impress.
Signing for Arsenal over four years ago, various failed attempts to claim a work permit meant he didn’t join up with the squad until the summer of 2014 following an impressive World Cup. With over 100 professional appearances in the top flights in France, Spain and Greece the 23-year-old isn’t short on experience.
What he may feel short on is trust. Wenger has had the chance to use him all season with Danny Welbeck injured, but has only opted to play Campbell in League Cup fixtures against Tottenham Hotspur and Sheffield Wednesday. Last season he was loaned out to Villarreal in January and, despite being on the bench for 18 league games since August 2014, Campbell has played just 37 minutes across four Premier League appearances.
Now Arsenal need him to start.
“I have been very impressed with him,” Wenger unconvincingly told the press on Friday morning. “His desire to improve has been fantastic. He can play centre-forward as well. I think he can be a big help in the next two or three months.”
Danny Welbeck is out until January at least, while the extent of Theo Walcott’s injury is not known but he is expected to miss more than three weeks. That leaves Olivier Giroud as our only striker and – as it stands – Campbell is our only senior player who can or will play on the right. He may be needed a lot.
Wenger also suggested Mathieu Flamini could – if required – play on Saturday with Santi Cazorla shifted wide, though the manager is reluctant to move Cazorla from the middle of the park.
“We will find solutions and I have to find the right one. Let’s play tomorrow. I can play with Campbell or another midfielder. I have another 24 hours to make that decision.”
It looks like Campbell – not Flamini, nor Alex Iwobi – will get the nod at the Liberty Stadium. Should he do well, the shirt is up for grabs for matches against Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur.
No pressure Joel.