Arsene Wenger feels it is “now or never” for Joel Campbell to make it at Arsenal. The 23-year-old Costa Rica forward is set for his first Premier League start of the season at Swansea today following injury to England duo Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the midweek Capital One Cup defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.
Campbell joined the Gunners in August 2011 from Deportivo Saprissa, but spent campaigns on loan at Lorient and Real Betis as he waited for a work permit, then headed to Olympiacos and last year a spell at Villarreal before returning to London.
Gunners boss Wenger resisted the temptation to allow the forward more time away from the Emirates, but accepts Campbell is entering a crucial stage of his Arsenal career. “I wanted to keep him here, I felt he has been on loan two or three times and that it is now or never for him with us,” said Wenger. “For him, as well, you belong to a club, you go one time out, two times out then after that you don’t know any more if you belong to the club or not.”
Wenger has every confidence Campbell — who impressed during Costa Rica’s run to the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup — possesses the style to deliver something different in the Premier League. “He has two positions — right side and centre- forward,” said Wenger. “He is a bit of a mixture between Walcott and (Olivier) Giroud. He likes to play with his back to goal like Giroud, but as well is a bit of a dribbler.”
Wenger rejected criticism of Arsenal’s training methods after the London Colney treatment room became more crowded this week. “There are plenty of things that you can’t master, and as well things (happen) during the game, you cannot plan everything, players have to be robust,” said Wenger.
“We sit down together and analyse the workload of the players — in the last six weeks, for example, we know exactly the percentage of work (Walcott) has done, how much workload, what sort of exercise he has done. Every day we know the intensity of his work, how much he has sprinted. We put it all together to see if we made a mistake.”
Wenger, though, does not want to suggest his players are injury-prone. “I don’t want to put that label on them,” he said. “It is like in life, why does he catch the flu and him not? You have to accept medically we are not all even.”
Despite Arsenal’s selection worries, Wenger will not urge his players to hold back for fear of further injury ahead of what is a crucial run of fixtures — with Bayern Munich away in the Champions League and then hosting the north London derby against Tottenham before the international break.
“Football, and life as well, is to play the next game like it was your last. That is part of the enjoyment,” he said.
Meanwhile Swans boss Garry Monk will remind his players of their good recent record against Arsenal before the Gunners’ Liberty Stadium visit. Monk has not lost any of his previous three meetings with Wenger, Swansea claiming a 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium in March 2014 before doing the double over Arsenal last season for only the second time in their history.
“They are always very tough games against Arsenal but we’ve managed to get some decent results against them home and away,” Monk said. “I think it’s good to remind the players that we’ve beaten them in the past and more than capable of beating any team.”
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