Friday 28 April 2017

Wenger is boosted by the timely return of Fabregas

Jeremy Wilson

ARSENE WENGER is confident that the problems which overshadowed Sol Campbell's final months at Arsenal in 2006 will not come back to haunt the former England defender on his return to the club.

Campbell was last night finalising a short-term contract to rejoin Arsenal until the end of the season and, with the club's physical tests showing no sign of decline, Wenger also believes that the 35-year-old has matured.

It is almost four years since Campbell left Highbury shortly after half-time of a match against West Ham and then did not play again for more than two months amid concern about his physical and psychological state.

However, he did then conclude the season with a goal in the Champions League final against Barcelona before citing a desire to play abroad and ultimately signing for Portsmouth.

"I believe since he has gone to a different club he has matured," said Wenger. "I gave an opportunity at the start to Sol Campbell to practise and become fit again and then he got the taste to play with the players. His tests are quite surprisingly good, physically. He worked harder than ever I think. They all become more professional when they get older."

Wenger stressed the word 'experience' when asked what Campbell could now bring to Arsenal, although William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen remain his first-choice centre-backs.

replacement

However, with Arsenal facing seven matches in the next 25 days, it looks possible that Campbell will feature in the FA Cup fourth round against Stoke City a week tomorrow.

Wenger hinted that, as a right-sided player, Campbell would cover for Gallas while Mikael Silvestre would be the natural replacement for the left-sided Vermaelen.

Crucially, though, Campbell brings the priceless quality to the young Arsenal dressing room of experience in winning major trophies.

"The likes of me and William (Gallas) have seen it all before and Cesc (Fabregas) too," said Campbell. "It's not so much dragging them over the line but just showing when you've got that green light to keep them going."

Campbell's arrival will also mean that Arsenal can allow Swiss defender Philippe Senderos to leave permanently and seek first-team football in this World Cup year. Wenger was also asked yesterday about the possibility of Campbell breaking back into the England squad.

"That is not my worry and my job but, if you were in his position, what would you want to do? You would want to give your best and you never know," said Wenger.

Having played only 45 minutes of reserve-team football since September, Campbell will not be in the squad who travel to Bolton for tomorrow's Premier League match, although Fabregas and Gael Clichy are available again. Denilson, though, is a major doubt with his back injury, while Aaron Ramsey has a slight thigh strain, leaving Wenger short of options in central midfield. It means that the return of Fabregas is a particular boost.

"He's 22 -- that's when you become really a man," said Wenger. "Cesc is an exceptional player, world-class. Part of the exceptional talent is that he is never happy with what he is delivering. That is how the big players improve. There is a lot more to come from him."

Arsenal have completed the signing of Bolivian 17-year-old Samuel Galindo, although the attacking midfielder is now likely to go out on loan in Spain for the rest of the season.

Bolton v Arsenal,

Live, Sky Sports 1, tomorrow, 4.0

Irish Independent

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