Campbell's return gives Wenger new options

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The Independent Online

It is not always the player's fault. Robert Pires had to be rushed into the Arsenal team for Tuesday's Champions' League tie against Ajax even though he, and manager Arsène Wenger, knew he had not recovered fully from a dead leg, because Arsenal were so short of experience.

Sol Campbell has been more fortunate; not that it seems that way to him. Having been crocked for much of last season he was again sidelined at the start of this term. Even when Philippe Senderos was twice monstered by Didier Drogba, then struck down, Wenger did not rush Campbell back, trusting Pascal Cygan for a couple of matches. Finally, against Thun a fortnight ago, Campbell returned. He celebrated with two goals in his second match against Everton but only on Tuesday, in his fourth appearance back, was Wenger satisfied. "This was the old Sol," Wenger said.

And the defender is ready to return for his country too. "I am ready. It is as simple as that," Campbell said. "I have missed not being part of the England set-up. It has been a long road but the main thing is I am fit. I am getting better and better and it is coming together. Every game I play I am getting stronger."

Campbell can now expect a recall for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Austria and Poland. Whether he regains his place in the team remains to be seen. Tuesday's match provided mixed evidence.

A commanding display was highlighted by two critical interventions. After 14 minutes he covered for Kolo Touré as Nourdin Boukari prepared to shoot; on 66 he denied Markus Rosenberg after an error by Lauren. But in between there was a moment when Campbell's discomfort in possession was exposed. He failed to control a short pass, was rapidly closed down and, in desperation, hacked the ball into the stands.

So should Sven Goran Eriksson select defenders on defensive skills alone, or need he consider the bigger picture? The traditional answer is the first option but a team that cannot hold possession does more defending than one that can. Yet if Wenger is happy to rely on Campbell why not Eriksson? Either way, both managers are pleased Campbell is flourishing again.

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