Arsenal FC: Gunners Loanee Joel Campbell Making a Good Impression at Real Betis

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentJanuary 31, 2013

Arsenal FC: Gunners Loanee Joel Campbell Making a Good Impression at Real Betis

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    Arsenal’s 20-year-old loanee Joel Campbell is making a good impression at Real Betis, after getting off to a rough start.

    This article will bring you Gooners up to date on his progress with the Béticos.

    The Gunners signed the Costa Rican international from Deportivo Saprissa on August 19, 2011

    When he didn't receive a UK work permit, he went on loan to Lorient for the 2011-12 season, where manager Christian Gourcuff wanted to sign him temporarily for another spell. 

    Arsène Wenger opted to send Joel on loan to Betis. 

Joel Campbell: From Outsider to Starter

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    Last October, Inside Spanish Football's Real Betis club correspondent Ben Hardman told me via email

    Joel 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.

    I wouldn't say the management have a problem [with Campbell playing for Costa Rica], but it is definitely a frustration.

    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. 

    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.

    Campbell has since gone from an outsider to a first-team regular, making 10 starts in La Liga, which accomplishes the first objective of a loan—to consistently play meaningful minutes. 

    Adam Boyle, writer of, explained to me in an email how Joel has made the most of his chance at Betis, despite the consequences of his patriotism: 

    This week Betis let him go to Costa Rica for two games. They then realised the first one was just a friendly and immediately called him straight back for the weekend's fixture with Atlético Madrid. 

    After that he'll fly across the Atlantic again for a competitive game this time—a total of 40,000 km according to one local newspaper.

    Well, of his two rivals for a starting position, Juan Carlos has been out injured for a month and Salvador Agra has been a bit disappointing [the Portuguese midfielder has been loaned out to Siena].

    But it's also true that as Joel has looked a lot more comfortable and confident in the last couple of months and all aspects of his play have improved as a result.

    Agra completed two dribbles from 30 attempts, failed to convert 85.7 percent of chances in front of goal, and didn't have the same pizzazz Jefferson Montero brought to the team last season. 

    No wonder manager Pepe Mel decided to bring Campbell back into the inner circle.  

    Considering the club vs. country saga which not only leaves Joel jet-lagged but diminishes his time spent with the Béticos coaching staff, the Costa Rican has been quite good.

    When asked to grade him out of 10, Boyle said seven. 

Will Joel Campbell Become an Arsenal Regular?

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    Don't question Joel Campbell's talent when it comes to deciding if he'll make it at Arsenal—it's there; his pro career isn't going to end up like Luke Freeman. 

    When manager Pepe Mel starts a jet-lagged loanee for a La Liga team chasing UEFA Champions League qualification, that tells you the kid has world-class upside. 

    In a win over Real Zaragoza, goalkeeper Adrián threw the ball with velocity, Joel controlled it perfectly, shielded the ball from the opposing player, had the presence of mind to look up, spot Rubén Castro's run, and possessed the technique to loft a through-ball for the assist—Campbell did this in his own half. 

    Against Deportivo La Coruña, he received Beñat's pass, noticed Ayoze and Álex Bergantiños were backing off, so the Costa Rican unleashed a rocket past Daniel Aranzubia. 

    Joel also had several bright moments vs. Athletic Bilbao. 

    Then when you factor in his performances for Costa Rica's youth team, where FIFA's Technical Study Group mentioned him as an outstanding talent in the U-17 and U-20 World Cup, it reinforces how much talent he has. 

    In Bed With Maradona editor Dave Hartrick offered his take on Campbell's future with the Gunners:

    I think there’s a good player in there but one who may need to be handled with kid gloves and loved to get the best from, needs to be at a club with the time to give him a bit of special treatment and longer term, that may not be Arsenal.


    "A poor man's Theo Walcott" is how Steve Nicol described Joel Campbell, on loan to Real Betis from Arsenal, during today's commentary.

    — Andrew Orsatti (@AndrewOrsatti) January 24, 2013


    Like Walcott, Joel Campbell is a No. 9 masquerading as a winger, and he yearns for a free-roaming role—hence why Hartrick made the "kid gloves" reference and why Nicol was frustrated with the Costa Rican. 

    Arsène Wenger's decision to move Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie centrally, enabled both players to turn into world-class footballers. 

    Campbell could be the same. 

Statistically Analysing Joel Campbell

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    League Only GS/GP G SPG A SCPG DPG
    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (19) 9/16 1 21 2 0.8 1.2
    Erik Lamela (20) 15/17 10 5.2 1 1.9 2.9
    Heung-Min Son (20) 17/18 7 4.1 1 0.9 1.3
    Joel Campbell (20) 10/13 2 9.5 1 0.7 1.0
    Julian Draxler (19) 11/17 4 6.3 1 1.1 2.1

    Koke (21)

    13/17 3 7.3 4 2.6 0.5

    Oscar (21)

    14/21 1 34 4 1.3 1.0
    Raheem Sterling (18) 19/22 2 17 2 1.6  2.0 
    Suso (19) 8/12 - -* 0.6  0.8 
    Takashi Usami (20) 11/15 2 12.5 - 0.8 2.6


    * has taken 16 shots. 


    (age); GS/GP = games started/games played; G = goal/s; SPG = shots per goal; A = assist/s; SCPG = shots created per game; DPG = dribbles per game


    Here are some of the best prospects in Europe's elite leagues, 21 years or younger, that have featured out wide this season. 

    Campbell's stats stack up relatively well when you consider his age, him being a loanee, and the fact he's caught in between an ongoing club vs. country saga. 

    Here are some aspects of Joel's game that he needs to improve. 

    • He gives away the ball 32.3 percent of the time when he passes—the worst for Real Betis starting outfielders. You don't need to always play the "hero ball". 
    • Even though he is fouled more times per game (2.6) than Lionel Messi (2.4) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2.4), Campbell is unsuccessful 73 percent of the time when he tries to dribble. 
    • Joel has to be more productive like Lamela. Too many times, the Costa Rican goes missing in action for large chunks of the game. 


    The most impressive characteristic that I've seen from Campbell is his defending. 

    Opposing players underestimate how good a tackler Joel is—2.2 tackles and 1.3 interceptions per game. 

    Yes, he is overzealous in his pressing, a bit like André Santos (the less said about the Brazilian, the better), but Campbell isn't a defender, so it's not a problem. 

    Joel's defending is very reminiscent of Ivica Olić, who use to run himself into the ground, which makes you appreciate Campbell even more because of the flight mileage he has clocked up for Costa Rica. 



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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.

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