Costa Rica's Joel Campbell Must Start for Arsenal Next Season

Mr XSenior Writer IJune 18, 2014

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 14:  Joel Campbell of Costa Rica celebrates scoring his team's first goal with the ball under his jersey during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Uruguay and Costa Rica at Castelao on June 14, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Arsene Wenger and Arsenal must consider starting Joel Campbell next season after the striker's big-game mentality for Costa Rica has already seen the 21-year-old become a star at the World Cup in Brazil. 

The young striker made the entire world stand up and take notice of his great potential after a stunning performance in Los Ticos' 3-1 destruction of Uruguay. Campbell was easily the man of the match after scoring and contributing an assist in the first major shock of the tournament.

In a nice, humble touch for one so young, Campbell was quick not to take the deserved praise for the huge win away from his teammates, as per the Daily Mail.

Today was excellent for me, but it would have come to nothing without the contribution of my colleagues.

Everyone lived up to their responsibilities. I tried to do my best to score goals and my colleague supported me.

We have to take one step after another. We have difficult matches ahead but this will give us impetus.

That increase in impetus, should see Campbell become an important squad member for Arsenal next season.

He joined the Gunners in 2011 from Deportivo Saprissa after impressing at the under-20 World Cup in Colombia. Campbell, however, has been out on loan for the past three seasons at Lorient, Real Betis and Olympiacos respectively. He was initially sent out on loan to gain a work permit, which would enable him to play in England, and he duly achieved that target in the summer of 2013.

Last season saw the forward enjoy a successful loan spell at top Greek outfit, Olympiacos. Campbell was useful if not spectacular in Greek Super League action where he scored a healthy eight goals from 25 starts.

However, it was during Olympiacos' foray in the Champions League where he really stood out. He managed to play five games at European football's highest level and featured against some of the giants of the game.

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 14:  Joel Campbell of Costa Rica celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Uruguay and Costa Rica at Castelao on June 14, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Robert Cian
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Campbell played against Paris Saint-Germain FC twice in the group stages and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani. He played well against Zlatan and the eventual quarterfinalists without setting the world on fire on either occasion.

It was against Anderlecht in mid-October, however, where he signalled to the world and Wenger that he could cut it at the very top of the game. Playing on the right side of an attack-minded 4-2-3-1, Campbell destroyed the Belgian champions. In doing so he gave the superb Dennis Praet and Fabrice N'Sakala, in particular, an absolute torrid time.

The performance against Anderlecht proved a real turning point for the Costa Rican-born forward. With the foundation set, he became a key figure for Olympiacos for the rest of the season.

Even then, only the most hardened of Arsenal fans would have kept a keen eye out for the youngster. It was not until his phenomenal performance against Manchester United in the last 16 of the Champions League that everyone really started to sit up and take notice.

Featuring on the right flank, Campbell was outstanding all night and had Patrice Evra spinning in circles as he ran rings around the French international. The youngster even had the temerity to waltz past Michael Carrick before launching a stunning effort into the back of the net and past David De Gea from fully 30 yards to gift the Kokkinoi a well deserved 2-0 win.

That result, ultimately, proved one of the key deciding factors in Manchester United sacking David Moyes just two months later.

With Campbell's big-game mentality established at the highest levels of the game, Costa Rica sought to take advantage of his great potential by building their World Cup team around the 21-year-old.

Jorge Luis Pinto has the greatest collection of players available to him since Costa Rica's great team of 1990. The 61-year-old, in his 19th job as a manager, could not have hand picked a tougher opening group. With Uruguay, England and Italy in wait, the experienced coach decided to go with an attack-minded philosophy, with Campbell as a central figure.

That approach paid huge dividends against Uruguay in the opening game where the much-fancied South American's were a distant second best.

As CONCACAF's next big star, Campbell has developed under intense pressure and expectation to the extent that he is now thriving under pressure. This can be seen in the fact that Campbell has produced excellent displays in all of the high ranking games he has participated in.

Arsene Wenger, working as a pundit for French television during the World Cup said, "he will definitely come back to us for pre-season. He is maturing well," as per the Telegraph.

Jeremy Wilson also quotes Costa Rican-legend Paulo Wanchope as saying:

He really wants to go back to Arsenal and play and I told him that the only way to do that is on the pitch.

He did well today and I think that he needs to perform even better against Italy and then England to have that chance to go back to Arsenal.

The world and his mother know that Arsenal and Arsene are in the hunt for a new striker this summer. Campbell is very much in the mold of Daniel Sturridge in that he is a technically gifted and clever forward and does not comply with modern stereotypes regarding centre-forward play.

Olympiacos and Costa Rica play in a far more direct fashion than Arsenal have done since the halcyon days of George Graham. At the Gunners, he will be expected to interlink with midfield in a far more constructive manner.

His passing statistics, from, suggest the forward could make an instant impact at Arsenal next year. During his Champions League campaign, he created 1.8 goalscoring chances per game and contributed a pass success rate of 79 percent. However, he only averaged 24.6 passes per game.

These stats compare favorably against Theo Walcott. The injured English international also contributes 1.8 key passes from just 19.8 passes per game with a success rate of 81 percent, as per WhoScored.

Where Walcott stands above Campbell is crossing. Theo averages two crosses per game compared to Campbell's 0.2 per game.

This would suggest that Campbell is more comfortable coming inside and that he does not possess the same blistering pace as his club mate.

What is clear is that Campbell is ready for first team action at Arsenal. The time is right to allow Serge Gnabry out on loan to develop further while bringing Campbell back into the fold. Here, he can rotate with Walcott and thus allow Wenger to choose the right man for the right occasion.

Campbell is more a forward than Walcott, who is an orthodox winger. While the Englishman can play inside, he does not possess the same guile, creativity or tenacity that Campbell has in spades.

With that in mind, Wenger must bring the impressive youngster back into the Arsenal family and play him whenever possible next season. Campbell is already a better player than Wanchope ever was, and he has the potential to go even further.


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