Campbell has waited a long time for his chance. The Costa Rican forward has spent the past three seasons out on loan, gaining the requisite international caps and experience to qualify for a work permit and become a serious contender for the Arsenal squad. He recently flew in to London and is expected to join up with first-team training once the team returns from a brief sojourn to New York.
He’ll be desperate to impress enough to stick around next season.
Standing in his way, however, is the formidable shape of Yaya Sanogo. Sanogo played deputy to Olivier Giroud for the second half of 2013/14 and started Arsenal’s first preseason friendly against Boreham Wood.
It’s difficult to imagine both Campbell and Sanogo being part of the 2014/15 squad. Arsenal have added Alexis Sanchez to Olivier Giroud as a central striking option and also have Theo Walcott, who has shown promising signs when deployed in that role. Keeping both Sanogo and Campbell on will only limit their opportunities and stunt their development.
At first glance, Campbell appears the obvious winner. He is quicker, more skillful and a more accomplished finisher. He is already a full international and has played regular football in Ligue 1, La Liga and the Greek Superleague.
By contrast, Sanogo is a relative novice. Prior to joining Arsenal, his only club experience came in the second tier of French football. What’s more, he’s yet to score in red and white.
However, Arsene Wenger appears to have enormous faith in the gangly frontman. Last season, he was charged with starting huge matches against both Liverpool and Bayern Munich. It’s clear that Wenger is a huge believer in the young Frenchman’s potential.
Sanogo can be exasperating to watch, but his sheer size makes him a significant force in the opponent’s penalty box. During the FA Cup Final against Hull City, he came on to cause havoc and help swing the game in Arsenal’s favour. His technical skills, however, must improve if he is to thrive at the elite end of European football.
The loser of this particular duel between Campbell and Sanogo is likely to move elsewhere this summer. In the case of Sanogo, that would most likely be a loan spell to accelerate his development. Campbell, however, could be sold permanently.
After his World Cup performance, his stock, and subsequently his transfer value, may never be higher.
It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top in the battle between the two young strikers. For Sanogo and Campbell, preseason has effectively become a trial period with the potential prize of a place in next season’s squad.