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Campbell a liability, but a compelling one. March 14, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer.
Tags: , ,

As will be every match he plays in Arsenal’s red for the rest of his career, today’s contest between Hull City and Arsenal was very much the Sol Campbell story. The axis upon which these tales revolve is a question: Do Campbell’s creaky bones still have what it takes for Premiership football? It’s a formula that has not yet gotten tired.

On one hand, you can still see the old Campbell. For one thing, he is still extremely large, but he also retains that magnificent intelligence: Campbell still has that reflexive telepathy, that superpower that foretells an attacker’s next move before it even comes to his mind. But his physical limitations are now a daunting impediment to his capitalizing on that knowledge. He was never the most mobile player to begin with, but now, even though his mind is a step ahead, but his body is two steps behind.

The drama comes from the fact that this realization is only just dawning on Campbell. The horror and disappointment are written deeper into the lines of his face with each new piece of evidence that his body is unequal to the demands of top-flight football. He is becoming a liability, not merely in footballing terms, but in terms of other players’ safety, as Kamil Zayatte’s knee can attest. And yet he is still largely effective: It’s worth remembering that the penalty he conceded should never have been given in the first place because Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink was blatantly offside, that for all that it was forceful, violent even, Campbell’s tackle on Zayatte was still a borderline call the referee bungled.

Where Campbell goes from here is unclear. Will the strain of more and more games at the highest level hasten his decay in a way that could cost Arsenal either of the trophies for which the Gunners are still in the hunt? Or will match practice help him come to terms with his limitations and emerge the stronger?

Some other thoughts on Hull-Arsenal:

  • Phil Brown sometimes gets his tactics spot on, but he flunked this one. Against a left-back in Gael Clichy who is manifestly uncomfortable on the backfoot, he couldn’t come up with anyone more dynamic for right midfield than Dean Marney?
  • That player should have been Jozy Altidore, who had a mare of a game up front, but looked very dangerous when Brown moved him out to the left wing. His physicality and aggression on the right would have been exactly the kind of challenge for which Clichy has no answer.
  • Where in the hell is Geovanni, the one Hull City player capable of real magic?
  • Mike thinks Theo Walcott should have started, but it’s hard to think of a more devastating way to employ someone so lightning quick than to inflict him upon an exhausted team that’s just spent almost half an hour defending desparately with 10 men. He’s a great supersub to have.
  • Andre Arshavin created a goal out of nothing and then decided to spend the rest of his evening giving a masterclass in hopeless shooting. In particluar, one towards the death when Samir Nasri let a loose ball run through to a wide-open Arshavin in the box was horrendous.
  • Nevertheless, Arshavin orchestrated the show flawlessly and, while he certainly came nowhere near his Euro 2008 form, when he displayed an unnatural ability to know the location of every man on the pitch at every second, he was doing the same sorts of things. I choose to attribute this to Nicklas Bendtner.
  • Denilson played a better game than he appeared to.
  • What is George Boateng’s problem?
  • Bernard Mendy was hopelessly at fault on Arshavin’s goal, but he actually put in a pretty canny defensive effort and improbably won repeated battles of strength with Bendtner.
  • Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink is a subtler player than many realize. He’s definitely a target man who specializes in getting knockdowns and holding the ball up, but he does it in such a subtle, technical way. If he had been partnered by a slightly more competent finisher than Altidore, he might have gotten an assist.


1. Campbell’s move to Newcastle disappointes me « The Half Volley - July 27, 2010

[…] Posted by atomchak in English soccer. Tags: Arsenal, Newcastle, Sol Campbell trackback As I think I’ve said before, perhaps not in so many words, I have a great deal of affection for Sol […]

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