IT was, after all, a deal that suited both parties but Arsene Wenger revealed yesterday that Sol Campbell did not need much persuading to return to his former club on a short-term contract.
Campbell wanted one last hurrah, one last chance to prove that, even at 35, he could last the pace at the highest level. And Wenger needed cover for William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen as well as the possible imminent departure of Philippe Senderos.
"I didn't put the knife under his throat to sign," the Arsenal manager said. "Nobody initiated it. It just gives me an opportunity to let Senderos go and play. He is in a World Cup team with Switzerland and he needs to play.
"I gave an opportunity at the start to Sol to practise and become fit again and he got the taste to play with the players.
"Sometimes, I took him with us, and he was keen to sign. He is dedicated, motivated and looks happy to be back here."
Campbell last played for Arsenal against Barcelona in the Champions League final in Paris in 2006. He had a 45-minute run-out for the Arsenal reserve team in midweek but will not be part of the squad for the match away to Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League tomorrow.
However, Arsenal will soon face a definitive period in their season, when they meet Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool in consecutive league matches.
Campbell, who will sign until the end of the season, could become a useful squad asset. "Yes, that can happen," Wenger said.
"But I don't believe I will take him to Bolton. He needs to play. For six months, he hasn't played a game. He has played just 45 minutes but he is in good shape."
Captain Cesc Fabregas is in good shape, too, and will return to the side at the Reebok Stadium after recovering from a hamstring problem.
It is a relief to Wenger, with his midfield weakened by injuries and Alexandre Song playing for Cameroon in the Africa Cup of Nations.
"Cesc is an exceptional talent," Wenger said.
"Part of that exceptional talent is that he is never happy with what he is delivering."
©The Times, London
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