Campbell walks out of Highbury in despair

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Sol Campbell, substituted for his own good, walked out of Highbury at half-time last night in despair at his performance and, in the words of his manager, "too mentally down to come back". Arsène Wenger admitted that, after the 31-year-old committed two dreadful first-half errors in Arsenal's 3-2 defeat to West Ham, "Sol is not well".

With the England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, watching in the stand, Campbell's international career unravelled in the space of seven minutes when Nigel Reo-Coker seized on his error to score West Ham's first and then Bobby Zamora bundled the Arsenal defender over before scoring a second.

Slow and weak in the challenge, Campbell looked like a shadow of the man who has played every minute of every England game for the past three major tournaments.

The damage, however, appeared to run much deeper than another attack of the erratic form that has hit Campbell of late. Wenger said that he had no dispute with the player he signed from Tottenham in 2001, just a sad realisation that Campbell was "too down" to carry on.

"He was too down at half-time, he felt guilty and we wanted to fight for him in the second half - at 2-1 it was not disastrous," Wenger said. "I took him off because he was in a mental shape ... he was too much down to come back. I don't think he has a problem with that [injuries].

"I knew it would be better for him if he came off. You always want your players to stay even if they are substituted but these were exceptional circumstances. He didn't do it as a disrespectful gesture to the team but he is very, very down. His confidence is not the highest at the moment.

"It was a gamble because I had no defenders on the bench," the Arsenal manager explained. "I don't know how low his confidence is ... it is more him feeling guilty at making the mistakes."

Wenger also announced that his injury crisis had further deepened with Lauren likely to be out for the rest of the season. Campbell's erstwhile defensive partner for England, Rio Ferdinand, fared little better last night when he was sent off in Manchester United's 4-3 defeat to Blackburn Rovers after making what Sir Alex Ferguson described as a "schoolboy error" for the second goal.

Chelsea drew 1-1 with Aston Villa and Robbie Fowler came on in Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Birmingham City. Fowler played the final half-hour and had a possible injury-time winner ruled offside.

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, said: "It was offside, but [Fowler] was very unfortunate with that overhead kick at the end, it would have been a dream return for him if that had counted."

Comments