Campbell Comes of age as Arsenal’s Title Dreams Come Alive

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Monday night’s sensational victory over Man City has prompted many critics to tout Arsenal as title favourites heading into the festive period. We seem to finally be showing the kind of performances in big games that are required to clinch that elusive fourth Premier League crown, and the coming months will show exactly how far we’ve come.

What makes our 2-1 victory over City even more impressive, is that we were able to beat our most prominent title rivals with a whole host of injuries. True, we have had to contend with this for the past months of the season, but to do it on the biggest stage of the campaign shows just how ready this group of players now are.

But while there is cause for optimism, it’s vital that both supporters and the players remain concentrated and firmly grounded in their expectations. The second half of the season is set up perfectly, but it is worth noting that we have a string of difficult away fixtures to navigate ourselves through if we are to be crowned Champions in May. Most notably, we travel to Liverpool, Everton, Man Utd, Man City and Spurs.

No one would realistically expect us to pick up maximum points across those five games, but it is fair to say we’ll have to collect a healthy total if we’re to beat our title rivals to the crown. Having obsessed over the fixtures every moment of every day since Monday, I’d argue we need to win at least two of those fixtures and probably draw another two.

Of course I am getting way to far ahead of myself, but I also had a look at our run in. The only fixture you’d look at between the April and May and think we might not be favourites is away at City on the penultimate weekend of the season. A strong second half of the season is now vital to ensure that the title isn’t decided on that once fixture.

Another point I feel is necessary to highlight is the recent form of Joel Campbell. The Costa Rican has been excellent in recent games, and it is perhaps time to drop the jokes about how much weaker he makes us. When it became apparent that he would be given an extended run in the side, a mixture of dread and despair flooded the minds of even the most optimistic and supportive fan.

On the drive down to Swansea earlier in the season, he bore the brunt of almost every joke. We ironically created a chant for him and went berserk when he opened his account that day. The entire time he was in the side, we were counting the days before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would return to the side. But since that day, Campbell has gone from strength to strength. He has been performing against the smaller teams and of course, who can forget his incredible assist for Olivier Giroud’s crucial second goal away in Olimpiakos.

Tellingly, since his promotion to a first team starter, Chamberlain has returned from injury and continues to look a shadow of the player that we know he can be. He still strikes a figure bereft of confidence and now, Campbell has certainly surpassed him the the pecking order.

Ahead of the City game, I still questioned the strength of our right-hand side, but my fears were soon swept away. From a defensive and disciplined point of view, it was arguably his strongest game in an Arsenal shirt. He was willing to sacrifice his attacking game to stick to the game plan and ultimately see the Gunners home for a massive three points.

His attacking prowess is also not to be sneezed at. He’s starting to really become a threat from the right and offers us a quick and skilful outlet. He caused Man City plenty of problems on Monday, particularly in the second half, where he arguably could have scored at least one to clinch the game. And if you needed proof of his growing confidence and composure, you need only look at his delightfully weighted ball to play Ramsey in.

He also seems to be losing the ball less and less. Initially, he played with a lot of heart, but showed a distinct lack of quality. Now, he is increasingly looking like a solid footballer and a significant addition to our first team squad.

While the temptation may have been to sell him in the summer, we are finally beginning to see exactly why Wenger was so keen for him to stay and make an impact at the club.

He will never be the key piece to this particular puzzle, but he can certainly be a competitive squad player and if things continue to go as well as they are right now, potentially a title winner.

Hope you had a fantastic Christmas and hopefully I’ll be writing this blog next week following another two wins!

 

 

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