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“Last season was my first full season with the team from start to finish and to me it was a very productive time,” stated Joel Campbell, who started Arsenal’s last campaign as a fringe player.
“I played 30 games and that was very important for me and made me mature a lot. I could show what I’m made of, and at last the team and the fans were happy with what I have done.”
The 24-year-old winger had been reported to be attracting interests from West Ham United and Valencia, but he swiftly dismissed the departure rumours, stating he would “fight with everything to have the opportunity to play and to show” what he could offer for Arsenal next season.
The Costa Rican’s path so far
Work permit issues delayed his Arsenal debut, and subsequent loan moves ensured Campbell hardly enjoyed minutes at Emirates Stadium.
Despite the hurdles, Campbell kept his head down and chose to work hard to make his mark instead of engineering a move to a smaller club or trash talk in front of reporters.
Last season was his first full season with the N5 club.
Whilst the British core’s major components in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott floundered, he rose to the occasion, producing numerous fine displays such as a man-of-the-match-worthy performance in the all-decisive final Champions League group match against Olympiakos.
His passes and movement in the final third especially stood out, whilst his hard work earned him plaudits that the media and fans denied handing him prior to his revelation.
Despite earning the backing of the Arsenal faithful, his performances were never impressive enough to convince Arsene Wenger to make him a mainstay in the first team.
He was subsequently demoted to the bench when the under-performing English wingers returned to full fitness.
Despite being a victim of unfair treatment, his recent declaration to fight for his spot underlines his professionalism.
Looking forward – the nascent Premier League season
Whilst Alexis Sanchez made left flank his own, the right-wing merry-go-round saw six players wander on the right. None has a made an impact strong enough to be considered the first-choice right-winger heading into the 2016/17 campaign.
Arsenal’s reported interest in Riyad Mahrez highlights the uncertainty persisting over that area of the pitch.
In the likely event of Campbell remaining an Arsenal player on August 31, Alex Iwobi, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Campbell will likely be overlooked in favour of Walcott, who, on paper, is more technical than the other three.
However, the Arsenal manager may want to incorporate Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, or Santi Cazorla into the starting lineup as a right-winger to make room for the incoming Granit Xhaka.
In any scenario, the Costa Rican international will likely find himself on the bench more often than not.
Campbell’s intention to fight for his spot in the starting eleven deserves appreciation, but the manager opted for dropping him to offer to playing time to Walcott, who seemed as though he had forgotten the basics of the game.
With the competition for places increasing in leaps and bounds, Campbell’s chances of making 30 appearances next season is certainly not astronomical.
Looking forward – his Arsenal future
Arsenal’s summer wishlist only features a top-class striker and a stand-in centre-back for the injured Per Mertesacker, apparently.
They may prioritise the signing of a right-winger next summer if none of Walcott and co. emulates the Francis Coquelin revelation.
However, even in the event of the arrival of an excellent right-winger, the professional side of Campbell will keep his place as the club will be more than delight to anoint their own Park Ji-Sung or Darren Fletcher – an able squad player, who would work his socks off every time the manager calls him up.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen
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