Joel Campbell has been in impressive form all season, scoring seven goals and providing ten assists in 19 league appearances for Olympiacos so far this campaign, but last night was the occasion on which he demonstrated his potential in front of the watching world.
The 21 year old, who may finally make a return to Arsenal in time for next season, was impressive throughout his 67 minutes on the field during his temporary side’s 2-0 victory over Manchester United in the Champions League. Campbell doubled Olympiacos’ advantage nine minutes after the break with an excellent finish, and his performance will hopefully go some way towards dispelling doubts that his showings in Greece this campaign couldn’t be judged properly due to the lower quality of the league in that country.
His previous loan spells, with Lorient in France and Real Betis in Spain, may not have yielded much in terms of goals, but this season Campbell’s game has gone up several levels. He had already made something of an impact in international football, memorably scoring against Spain in a friendly in 2011, but this is his first campaign since joining Arsenal in which he has delivered a consistent level of performance, leading to calls that he should be part of the first-team squad at Emirates Stadium next season.
On this evidence, those claims are very difficult to argue with. Campbell possesses a blend of pace, power and trickery that would suit the Premier League and, although, like most players, he would probably require some time to adapt to the English game, it would surely be better to afford him some opportunities to impress at Arsenal rather than wondering what might have been.
Ryo Miyaichi’s future at the club has come under increasing scrutiny after the Japanese winger was left out of Arsenal’s latest Champions League squad, and Campbell certainly seems capable of making more of an impact on the Arsenal first-team than Ryo has done. Serge Gnabry possesses much promise but may head on loan at some point next season to further his development, whilst Campbell could provide a feasible back-up option to Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
In a way, with Walcott sidelined for the remainder of the campaign, it is something of a shame that Campbell will not be available to play for Arsenal this season, during a campaign when Arsene Wenger has experimented with numerous different options on the right flank (Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky).
Campbell has had to be mightily patient for his chance since joining Arsenal in 2011 and there have been some murmurings of late that the club would be prepared to allow him to join Olympiacos permanently in the Summer. Hopefully his performance last night will have gone some way towards persuading the manager that he should be used next season, in some capacity at least.