by Luka Kolakusic, @dream_shake

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin

Up until about a week ago, I didn’t believe old Ben’s words to be true. I sit here today in complete disbelief, regretting I ever doubted Uncle Ben’s words: “With great power, comes great responsibility” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). I should know better than to question the wisdom of a man whose face graces American $100 bills. On a more important note, I found out Uncle Ben’s brand name has nothing to with an “uncle” or a “Ben”, which is a disappointment (I’ll stop now, hopefully). Anyway, you know which Ben I was referring to.

Leading into the opening fixture, bloggers and journalists were eagerly writing their team-by-team previews, assessing and grading transfer business, strengths and weaknesses, squad depth, etc. Regarding Arsenal, their main point of discussion was whether or not the squad is strong enough to win the long-awaited Premier League title. General opinion was, and still is, that Arsene Wenger has the best selection of players at his disposal since The Invincibles (2007/2008 group comes closer for me, but it’s a matter of preference).

Naturally, every article from said bloggers and journalists included a depth chart used mainly to point out which areas of squad need improving. This was followed by a list of players, most of whom were impossible to buy (or, to use the Boss’s favorite word, ‘unavailable’), but fans still held their hopes high. They believed that {Insert random 30-goal-a-season striker here} will sign for Arsenal before the fat lady sung. On those charts, the center-forward position is usually occupied by Giroud, Walcott, Welbeck or Sanchez. I must be forgetting someone, but who?

*opens arsenal.com/first-team/players, scrolls down to ‘Forwards’*

There he is: Joel “I had no clue he’s still an Arsenal player” Campbell. Well, at least until last week, when Mesut Özil’s minor knee injury ensured a place on the substitutes bench for Mr. Campbell.

Amidst the usual uncertainty of the transfer market, I felt that one event was guaranteed to happen this summer: Joel Campbell would not be at Arsenal in September (Sorry, Ben). And here we are in September, trying to figure out his role in the team, wondering how and why it’s come to that. Occam’s razor would suggest it’s because the club didn’t sign a forward, fully aware of the true extent of Danny Welbeck’s injury. Who’s to blame? To answer that, I’d have to be a fly on the wall of Emirates Stadium boardroom, but unfortunately, flies can’t type, so I’ll go along with Twitter and blame Giroud (he’s at fault for lousy weather, too). I better stop myself before it’s too late. [Originally, I went on a rant here about us being 2 players short for 5 years and signing zero outfield players this summer, but my mother didn’t raise me to be rant-ish, so I deleted it.]

Campbell1 According to Transfermarkt, Campbell scored 28 and assisted 15 goals in 196 (137 starts) appearances (club + international), scoring 8 in his best season for Olympiakos – not impressive at all. Additionally, he played a whopping 37 minutes of Premier League football during his time at Arsenal. Spending most of his professional career loaned out, never did he prove himself worthy of a place among Arsene’s bunch. So, how come he’s still at the club? To be completely honest, I don’t know. He could be one of the names on Wenger’s “I see something in him” list, but when are we going to see what he sees? Probably never, at least not in a red and white shirt, but let’s hope he does a ‘Coquelin’ and proves me wrong.

The problem is, the young Frenchman had virtually no competition for his place in the lineup, given that he was called back simply because of lack of options due to one of Arsenal’s traditional injury crises. Joel, even with Giroud being our only available natural striker, has a mountain to climb. Further, the odds are against him. Staying with what is now knows as the “Francis Coquelin” phenomenon, one would have to dig quite extensively through the darkest corners of the Internet to find more than a few “Phoenix rising from the ashes after multiple loan spells” instances in modern football. Unless he shows exceptional improvement and dedication on the training ground or in ever-so-meaningful Whatchamacallit Cup games, it’s difficult to imagine him being more than a spectator when it really matters. It would take a bad case of sniffles or a mild plague among the starting XI, but those are highly unlikely.

So, why was he never presented with a chance to shine on the big stage? Firstly, none of his numerous loan spells were in England. In relation, does that mean not a single Premier League club was interested in his services? If true, one has to seriously doubt his ability of adapting to English football, specifically the physical aspect of it. Secondly, in four years, never has he managed to stay at one place for more than a single season, unable to settle down and gel with the team. After all, it takes more than a year for most players to learn the movements and tendencies of their teammates. Finally, it’s fair to presume there was no significant progression on his part, forcing me to question his ambition and work rate. Perhaps he got complacent after moving to a club of Arsenal’s magnitude and stopped pushing boundaries to better his game. On that note, it’s not outrageous to think a player refused a move to a club of lower stature, normally accompanied by lower wages, consequently sacrificing game time over wealth and big city lifestyle.

Campbell2Maybe the manager is waiting for his breakout season, resulting with a £50m offer from Liverpool, who are evidently on a mission to collect every mediocre striker in existence. There’s always a possibility he’s being henpecked by his loving wife/girlfriend/friend with benefits, unwilling to move away from her favorite shoe store. Gun to my head, I’d say him and Bellerin started a bromance (Joellerin?) in style of Flamzil, making him not available for sale.

In conclusion, Campbell should be prepared for a tough year of warming the bench, waiting patiently for rare opportunities in which to prove he’s capable of playing at a higher level. Reality is, he was always deemed as a last resort in case Welbeck’s injury turns out to be worse than originally thought and/or a new attacking talent doesn’t come in via transfer. As much as we all want him to set the world on fire, the most likely outcome is a few Thingamajig Cup appearances, resulting in a total of 0 goals, 0 assists and 4 offsides. In all honesty, I’d be perfectly happy if his only true contribution is an 87th minute game-winner versus Sp*rs in a game they see as their World Cup Final…or Judgment Day.

Written by Luka Kolakusic. Follow him at @dream_shake

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