Joel Campbell comes from a tiny nation, Costa Rica, with just 4.5m inhabitants. He is only 23 yet he already played at Lorient in France (25 League games), Real Betis (28) and Villarreal (14) in Spain, and in the city of the Gods, Athens (32). This fabulous prospect has moved to the other side of the world to proof himself with only his talents to fall back on. I don’t know what you did between 18 and 23, but Joel beats me hands down in terms of going out in the world and make it happen.
The Ox, at 22 years of age, is also a great talent who was bought at a young age and with a lot of money from Southampton. He has stayed with Arsenal ever since and is just five games away from a PL century. He had a privileged and protected football-upbringing at Arsenal, which is in quite a big contrast to our Costa Rican Gunner.
Regulars on Bergkampesque probably know where I am going with this. I read recently that grit and resilience are easily as important as talent and work rate when it comes to becoming successful. Of course this is nothing new, but it rung a bell when thinking of the current form and progress of Joel and Alex.
As far as I can judge, both players share the attributes of talent and desire: they are great guys who love football and want to get to the very top. But it is Joel who is making the rapid progress at the moment and who appears to be able to overcome small setbacks better. He is also a lot more effective this season, as in producing goals and assists, than the Ox.
Some will say the Ox is still young, but 95 PL games is a good tally and it is about time we let him go on loan and give him the opportunity to make real progress. But enough said about AOC; let’s talk about JC.
For me, next to Hector Vector’s development, seeing Joel really take to the stage in the last few months has been one of the nicest Arsenal surprises this season. I love this guy: he works his socks off, is not afraid of physical contact (any more), has a great motor, good first touch, fine spacial awareness, is a team player, can assist and score in equal measures. Joel is the sort of player I enjoy just focusing on in a game; you will notice there are more dimensions to his game once you do so.
There is class about him.
I can watch his goal against Sunderland yesterday, time and again. Firstly, there is the awareness of where the space is and him moving into it; Secondly, there is the fine anticipation of the bounce of the ball and him opting to pass it into the corner of the goal rather than blasting it. That for me was class; and then he decided to celebrate in front of the Sunderland away supporters… 🙂
Of course it is still early days, but I reckon we are now starting to reap Arsenal’s AND Joel’s investment in his career. He has made big sacrifices to be where he is today and things will hopefully continue to improve for him. I reckon we will get a lot of joy out of Joel for years to come…
And let me whisper this one more time: the sooner the Ox goes on loan the better for him and Arsenal. Hit the Road Ox and come back when you are a footballer in full.