Sunday 21 January 2018

Campbell warned 'it's now or never' for Gunners career as injuries mount

Joel Campbell sums up the frustration of Arsenal's players after their defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup earlier this week
Joel Campbell sums up the frustration of Arsenal's players after their defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup earlier this week

Jeremy Wilson and Matt Law

Arsene Wenger has said that it is "now or never" for Joel Campbell in his Arsenal career as he prepares to give the Costa Rica forward his first-team chance amid news that Theo Walcott will be out for five weeks.

With Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere also injured, Wenger is weighing up whether to play a second full-back further up the pitch against Swansea today or to give Campbell his first Premier League start since joining Arsenal in 2011.

Campbell shone at the World Cup for Costa Rica but has been loaned out four times and, at the age of 23, Wenger says that he has the sort of opportunity that Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin so emphatically seized last season.


Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ramsey are out until at least after the international break in three weeks but Walcott's calf injury is worse than first feared and he is likely to miss a further two weeks. As well as the England games against Spain and France, Walcott will be absent from Arsenal matches against Swansea, Bayern Munich, Tottenham, West Brom, Dinamo Zagreb, Norwich and potentially Sunderland.

"The gut feeling is one [Oxlade-Chamberlain] will be 20 days and one will be longer," Wenger said. "Walcott thinks he got a kick on his ankle and he felt it displaced a little. Then, your calf doesn't work in the right position, then you can get an injury because it extends a little bit too much in a different position. You cannot plan everything. Players have to be robust."

Another short-term solution for Arsenal would be to move Mathieu Flamini into central midfield and play Santi Cazorla wide but Wenger confirmed he would be reluctant to disrupt the rest of the team.

Of Campbell, who appears likely to start, Wenger said: "He is a bit of a mixture between Walcott and [Olivier] Giroud. He likes to play with his back to goal but as well is a bit of a dribbler. I wanted to keep him here this season. I felt he has been on loan two or three times and that it is now or never for him with us.

"I have been very impressed with him, his attitude is outstanding.

"In the coming two to three months he can be a very important player. At the end you can find yourself with a bigger squad. That is what happened with Coquelin and Bellerin last season."

Wenger also confirmed that Arsenal had held a comprehensive internal analysis of the club's preparation and training but said the injuries would not impact on his strategy in the January transfer window.

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