With all the injuries currently afflicting the Arsenal team, the major and perhaps only selection headache the manager was who to play on the right of the attack. Six players who could have played in that position are currently injured. Except Joel Campbell of course. The forgotten man.
Leading up to the match, Arsene Wenger made the point that this was essentially “now or never” for the Costa Rican. After spending about four years on Arsenal’s books, with more than a few loans out various clubs, I’m sure every Arsenal fan has been wondering whether the club was the right club for him and vice versa.
But Campbell was going to get his chance, like fringe Arsenal players get when we are struck down with an injury crisis. If it was going to take The Great Right Winger Injury Crisis of 2015TM, for him to get his first premier League start, so be it.
Despite having a shaky first half, Joel Campbell appears to have grabbed that chance at staking a claim for a permanent place in the starting line up with both hands. Maybe because the home team were really up for the fight, Campbell and his teammates didn’t really get going in the opening stages of the match. Swansea pressed, harassed and passed effectively around the Arsenal players all through the first half.
If they had a striker with any semblance of a first touch or even a modicum of composure instead of Bafetimbi Gomis, they should have been at least a goal up at the break. Even when the Swansea striker broke free and was through on goal and had rounded the goalkeeper, the utterly impressive Hector Bellerin was on hand to hinder him from getting his shot off.
Now it feels like every time I type Bellerin’s name on this blog, I feel compelled to preface it with words such as ‘impressive’ and the like. And truly all season he has been truly impressive in pretty much every match he has played. His lung busting runs to make last ditch interceptions and goal-line clearances are gradually becoming his trademark.
Joel Campbell usually plays as a striker for his national team and the calm way he took the third goal showed his goalscoring instinct, even though he should have probably scored from a gilt-edged chance in the first half. Long may that continue
The whole team actually picked up the pace in the second half, perhaps after having received a rollicking from the manager at the break.
The first goal was classic Olivier Giroud, breaking away from his marker at the corner and cushioning a header into the corner. The second goal was less classic. Lukasz Fabianski, for the first time not having the game of his life against Arsenal and doing his best impression of a Premier League goalkeeper, flapping at a cross when it would have been easier to punch the ball away. Laurent Koscielny was much stronger than Flappyhanski and had the presence of mind to pirouette and score.
The best player on the pitch was probably Mesut Özil, who racked up another two assists to his collection. Even when the team wasn’t playing really well, the German still stuck with it, splaying passes left, right and centre.
If the ability to keep at it and grind out results, especially when not playing well, is mark of true champions, then maybe someone should be preparing ribbons for this Arsenal team.