Premier League: Patience paying off for emerging Arsenal protagonist

Joel Campbell was very much an Arsenal outsider until the past two months
Joel Campbell was very much an Arsenal outsider until the past two months

Michael Lintorn salutes the impact that the previously overlooked Joel Campbell is having on Arsenal...

"Campbell’s impact is illustrated by his five Premier League starts to date delivering four wins and a draw at Tottenham. The two games that he began on the bench in the exact same sequence saw five points dropped."

Joel Campbell signed for Arsenal in August 2011 and it is no exaggeration to say that in the four years and four months between then and now, the ratio of days in which he looked like making it at the club were probably about one to every 250 in which he seemed destined to never get a chance.

Firstly, there was an issue of work-permit inadequacy, with the Costa Rican not cleared to play in the UK until two years after his arrival. Either side of that development, he was touring the continent on loan, firstly to Lorient, next to Real Betis and then Olympiakos without ever quite catching fire.

However, his breakthrough didn't come during a loan spell, it occurred while representing his nation at World Cup 2014. He scored the equaliser and was named man-of-the-match in Los Ticos' tone-setting opener against Uruguay and started every game, scoring a penalty against Greece in the round-of-16.

Because some of that success came at England's expense - Costa Rica won Group D and the Three Lions finished at the very bottom - it properly placed him on the Premier League radar for the first time: if he was going to make the Arsenal grade, this was his opportunity and... it never happened.

Campbell was afforded three starts - one in the Capital One Cup in September, the next in the Champions League in December and then in the FA Cup in January - before being sent out on another short-term deal to Villarreal in what to most would have been the moment to admit defeat.

The 23-year-old surprisingly didn't exit in the summer, but it wasn't like he was suddenly treated like a significant squad member either. Instead, he waited and waited until finally being given an outing in the Capital One Cup as they recovered from successive losses with a derby win at Tottenham.

Still, he immediately returned to being an afterthought again, being fed just four minutes of action across the next six fixtures before the sort of inexplicably extensive injury crisis that only befalls Arsenal forced Arsene Wenger to put him in the team for a Halloween trip to Swansea.

That's right, over four years on from joining the Gunners and 16 months after breaking out at the World Cup, the wide forward received his full Premier League debut and seized it with a goal and a standout performance.

Wenger rewarded Campbell with minutes in all nine matches across all competitions that followed that Liberty Stadium triumph and he certainly hasn't wasted his window, his latest accomplished display in the 2-1 victory over Manchester City helping to turn Arsenal into 2.26/5 title favourites.

The Costa Rican's impact is illustrated by his five Premier League starts to date delivering four wins and a draw at Tottenham. The two games that he began on the bench in the exact same sequence saw five points dropped as his colleagues fell 2-1 to West Brom and were held 1-1 by Norwich.

Following over four years on the periphery, Campbell is on course to be a far more influential figure than anyone anticipated in what could prove the north Londoners' first title win in 12 seasons.

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