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Joel Campbell earns Arsene Wenger’s praise after four-year wait for first-team soccer


Over four years after signing for Arsenal, Joel Campbell finally made his first Premier League start last Saturday. The Costa Rica international was forced an appearance in the starting XI due to yet another injury bug for the Gunners. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott were both forced off of the pitch within 15 minutes of each other last week due to injuries, and Aaron Ramsey has been sidelined following the north London outfit’s crucial 2-0 victory against Bayern Munich in mid-October.

Campbell proved he was worthy of the opportunity, as the 23-year-old forward netted a goal during the 3-0 win against Swansea. While the goal was certainly a tremendous positive for the player, Campbell was also a workhorse and tracked back numerous times to help defensively in the cagey affair in Wales (he finished with three tackles).

SEE MORE: Guardiola expects an attack-minded Arsenal.

Gunners manager Arsene Wenger was full of praise for his forward following the match and even revealed that Campbell previously came to terms with leaving the Premier League club. “I think he wanted to go [in the summer] because he didn’t play, which you can understand and as well because he didn’t play at all,” stated Wenger. “Sometimes people want you to buy more and more players but after a while you have to look at your own players.”

The Frenchman continued:

“He comes from Costa Rica, to get out of there and to come to [England] and to go different leagues and survive, you need some character and he has shown that again today. In our job, all you can do is be ready and when you get your chance, take it and I think he did. When he came back he was on the waiting list and finally he got the chance and I’m very happy for him.”

“I think he worked very hard [against Swansea], defended very well, created chances in the first half – he had that shot that was not that far off. He had another shot and in the second half he scored a goal and on top of that he worked very hard.”

Although Campbell showed that he can handle the Premier League, he may not get the chance to see what he can do against the German giants on Wednesday. On the pitch for 96 total minutes over the first two-and-a-half months of the current campaign, the Costa Rican may not be ready to start three consecutive matches in an eight day span.

Despite Campbell’s defensive contributions away to Swansea, Wenger may indeed opt for a more defensive lineup for Wednesday’s Champions League clash. Kieran Gibbs could make an appearance as a wing back (as he did for the final six minutes of the Swansea match), which could then push Alexis Sanchez over to the right flank. The Arsenal boss revealed on Tuesday that regular right back Hector Bellerin will miss out on the match due to a groin issue, which obviously rules out the idea of the young Spaniard moving into the right midfield position.

Whatever lineup Wenger chooses to go with in Germany, the Gunners will surely be pleased with how Campbell played last Saturday. With Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, and Walcott set to be out for a few more weeks, Arsenal can breathe a little easier knowing Campbell does not appear to be out of place in the squad.

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