Almost two years since he officially became an Arsenal player, Joel Campbell finally received the news that he had long been waiting for when it was confirmed last night that he has been granted a work permit enabling him to play in England.
The Costa Rican winger, who has scored seven goals in 25 senior outings for his country, has spent the ensuing period out on loan, first with Lorient in France and then with Real Betis last season. Despite being a regular on the right flank for both of his temporary sides, the athletic and powerful youngster failed to find the scoresheet with regularity, scoring a combined total of just five league goals in two years.
However, many other aspects of his game have improved considerably since he departed on temporary transfer. The 21-year-old’s close control has improved markedly, whilst his decision making is also far more accurate than it was two years ago. Campbell is already officially part of Arsenal’s first-team squad despite the fact that he has yet to be allocated a squad number, but manager Arsene Wenger will face a difficult decision upon the team’s return from Asia regarding how, if at all, Campbell will fit into his plans for next season.
Much could depend on the situation concerning another flying young winger, Ryo Miyaichi. The Japanese international travelled with the club on the Asia Tour, but didn’t feature against an Indonesian XI as he is still not fully recovered from an injury sustained last season. There have been murmurings that Ryo could return to Feyenoord on loan, where he spent part of the 2010/11 season, but there does appear to be a space for a young winger in the first-team squad following the departure of Andrey Arshavin over the summer.
Who will fill that vacancy remains to be seen, and there is indeed the possibility that it could be neither Campbell or Ryo, but instead 18 year old Serge Gnabry who takes the spot. Gnabry has already made four appearances for the senior side and was largely impressive against Indonesia, and his vast potential further complicates the decision concerning the immediate futures of the other two.
There have been suggestions that Campbell could spent at least part of the season on loan at England, possibly at newly-promoted Premier League side Crystal Palace, who could utilise a player of Campbell’s type following the departure of Wilfried Zaha to Manchester United. Campbell himself is desperate to play for Arsenal, having not pulled on the red and white since his hastily-arranged press conference two years ago in which he, rather prematurely, announced that he had joined the club.
After a long wait, he finally took a step in the right direction last night. Whether he will have to wait even longer for an opportunity to prove himself at Emirates Stadium is at the discretion of Wenger.