Arsenal FC: Gunners Loanee Joel Campbell Struggling at Real Betis

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentOctober 16, 2012

Arsenal FC: Gunners Loanee Joel Campbell Struggling at Real Betis

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    Forget about the idea of Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell breaking into Real Betis' starting XI. The 20-year-old Costa Rican international is struggling to make Pepe Mel's bench. 

    This article is published for Arsenal supporters, who want to know why Campbell's loan spell with the Béticos is going south. 

Joel Campbell's Rise to Prominence

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    With 18 goals in 22 international youth games for Costa Rica, Joel Campbell dominated at junior level just like Adaílton did for Brazil in the 1990s. 

    Since 1993, the South American Football Confederation invites two nations outside of CONMEBOL to the Copa América. 

    Costa Rica was invited to the 2011 Copa América in Argentina, and Campbell caught the eye of South American football correspondent Tim Vickery. 

    Speaking to talkSPORT's Hawksbee and Jacobs, Vickery said

    He [Joel Campbell] was very impressive in the Copa. It’s not really my region, Costa Rica, but they get invited in. They came with a U-22 squad and he looked the pick of the bunch. He’s a strong left footed striker with some explosion about him. I’m told, he’s a little bid mad, a little bid leery. 

    Three weeks later, Campbell was in Manizales, Colombia to play his first FIFA U-20 World Cup match against Spain. 

    La Sele were outclassed 4-1 by a side containing the likes of Isco, Koke, Rodrigo, Oriol Romeu and Marc Bartra. 

    During Costa Rica's 3-2 win over Australia, you could see the anxiety in the eyes of Trent Sainsbury and Brendan Hamill whenever Campbell started to dribble toward the goal. 

    The Costa Rican netted a brace and provided the game-winning assist. 

    In the round of 16 against the host nation, Campbell rattled the crossbar with a free kick. Colombia would win 3-2 with a 93rd minute penalty kick from James Rodríguez. 

    The FIFA Technical Study Group documented Campbell's prowess in Colombia: "creative attacker with good dribbling skills and vision."

    Two years earlier, the TSG had taken note of Campbell's contributions at the FIFA U-17 World Cup: "mobile, competitive striker with good technique."


    UPDATED PROGRESS OF JC; January 31, 2013

Joel Campbell: Signing for Arsenal and the Loan Spell at Lorient

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    Last August, Arsenal announced they had signed Joel Campbell from Deportivo Saprissa, a club that has produced a myriad of Costa Rican legends: Rolando Fonseca, Walter Centeno, Harold Wallace, Erick Lonnis and Álvaro Saborío. 

    None of the five aforementioned Costa Ricans played in Europe's elite leagues. 

    At the time, Arsène Wenger said of Campbell: 

    He's a young prospect with talent. He can play right, left, central. We took a little bit of gamble on him. But, what we've seen is worth the take. 

    It wasn't a gamble from an economical perspective because ESPN FC reported that the Costa Rican cost the Gunners £930,000, with bonuses potentially pushing the transfer fee over £1 million. 

    Perhaps the risk Wenger was alluding to may have been the likelihood of Campbell not receiving a UK work permit, which happened just like with Wellington Silva eight months earlier

    Lorient manager Christian Gourcuff revealed to "They [Arsenal] released him [Campbell] because he did not have his work permit in England. Otherwise, they would have kept him."


    League Only (11-12) Goals Shots Per Goal
    Robin van Persie 30 5.8
    Olivier Giroud 21 7.7
    Lukas Podolski 18 4.7
    Kévin Monnet-Paquet 6 8.3
    Innocent Emeghara 5 6.8
    Joel Campbell 3 13.7
    Jérémie Aliadière 2 13
    Gilles Sunu 1 21


    Campbell was limited to just three league goals in 25 games. Why were his stats so unimpressive? He wasn't a weekly starter and his shooting was erratic. 

    However, he did show flashes of brilliance, which was why Gourcuff wanted to retain Campbell on loan for another season (via ESPN FC) [1]. 

    In a 2-1 cup win over Montpellier, the Arsenal loanee outpaced Cyril Jeunechamp and calmly slotted the ball past Laurent Pionnier.

    Later in the game, Campbell turned Abdelhamid El Kaoutari inside-out and was fouled in the box by Pionnier—Gabriel Peñalba missed the penalty. 

    In April 2012, Lorient beat Montpellier 2-1 again [2]. 

    Campbell controlled Remi Mulumba's long ball, cut inside from the right, leaving Hilton [3] flat-footed before curling the ball into the left corner of the goal. 


    [1] Gourcuff ended up signing Alain Traoré, who is the type of explosive, entertaining and dangerous player that Campbell is aspiring to become. 

    [2] MHSC went on to win the league

    [3] Hilton was named in the UNFP Team of the Year. 

    UPDATED PROGRESS OF JC; January 31, 2013

Joel Campbell's Early Struggles with Real Betis

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    When Joel Campbell isn't regularly making Real Betis' bench, you have to wonder what on earth is going on. 

    This is where Ben Hardman comes in. He's the Real Betis club correspondent for Inside Spanish Football

    He told me via email: 

    I wouldn't say the management have a problem [with Campbell playing for Costa Rica], but it is definitely a frustration. Pepe Mel signed Campbell on loan to be a good squad player and make an impact whether it be from off the bench or from the starting line-up once he acclimatises to life at Betis, unfortunately he has done neither.

    He wasn't included in the squad for the last game against Real Sociedad. He then jets off for Costa Rica commitments against El Salvador, a game in which he didn't play as much as a minute. This sort of thing will definitely annoy the Betis management and of course Campbell has tried to shut down the rumours that playing for his country is detrimentally affecting his club prospects. 

    Talking about the tug-of-war between national and club managers, Arsène Wenger once famously quoted Gérard Houllier's [1] view on the matter:

    He [Houllier] thinks that what the national coaches are doing is like taking the car from his garage without even asking permission. They will then use the car for ten days and abandon it in a field without any petrol left in the tank. We then have to recover it, but it is broken down. Then a month later they will come to take your car again, and for good measure you're expected to be nice about it.

    Evidently, Pepe Mel feels the same way, which is why Campbell is on the outer looking in. 

    Hardman added:

    He [Campbell] hasn't settled in at all. He has spent a lot of time away from the squad which won't help his bonding with his teammates. He has said recently, it is difficult joining back up with his teammates and fighting for a squad place when everyone else has been training with the manager since Monday. One advantage is that he naturally speaks Spanish, which if he didn't would be a big problem.

    The media are certainly interested in Campbell, which is a good thing, with mostly positive comments such as 'he is the hope of Costa Rica', but I can see a little annoyance creeping in as he has played more minutes this season for Costa Rica than for Betis. The club vs country row is definitely in full flow, unfortunately so for Campbell. However, he has said he is 'contento' at Betis and that he hopes we see the 'real' Joel Campbell soon. 


    [1] The irony with Houllier is that he managed the French U-18, U-20 and senior national teams. 

    UPDATED PROGRESS OF JC; January 31, 2013

What Position Will Joel Campbell Play at Real Betis?

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    Joel Campbell is a No. 9, but Inside Spanish Football's Real Betis club correspondent Ben Hardman told me via email that the Costa Rican will be played out wide:

    It appears that Joel Campbell has started his Betis career as a 'winger'. It has not really entered the equation that he could be your typical No. 9 striker, particular with Castro up-front as he is almost untouchable. Jorge Molina divides opinion amongst Béticos. No doubt he was fantastic in la segunda but in la primera he has not really shone, however, he did have a good pre-season and this has cemented his position as second choice.

    We then have other forwards who can play up-top, such as Jonathon Pereira and possible Salvador Agra, who's made a bright start to his Betis career. This leaves Campbell way down the pecking order and therefore pushed out towards the wings due to his pace and also Betis' lateral issues. I wouldn't like to see him just deployed on the wings to 'fill the gap', however, as Pepe Mel is unsure as what to his best position is, he seems to doing just that. 

    Betis have an elite midfielder in Beñat, who could form a lethal combination with Campbell, by simply playing through balls to the dynamic Costa Rican. 

    Up front is Rubén Castro, who is a technically sound forward who can score and create.

    There's Jorge Molina, who is an old fashioned centre forward who will win headers, hold the ball up, lead the line and poach goals. 

    On the right, there's Agra and Juan Carlos starts on the left. I'm not too familiar with either player, but from what I've seen, neither have the X-factor that Campbell possesses.

    So one can surmise that Pepe Mel's decision to not give Campbell an extended run isn't based on ability. 

    When Campbell did receive a chance against Atlético Madrid, it took him 19 minutes to get sent off.

    It was an absurd second yellow card for hand ball. Luis Filipe handles the ball (I know, ironic) deflecting it into Campbell's arm.

    Referee Alvaro Izquierdo strangely sends the Costa Rican off. One of the most comical red cards I've ever seen.

    Comment below with your thoughts on Campbell's situation. 


    UPDATED PROGRESS OF JC; January 31, 2013

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    Allan Jiang is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via email interview.