Former Gunner Sol Campbell believes Arsenal have proven that they are gutsy enough to end their 2011/12 domestic campaign on a high note.
The North London giants registered their fifth consecutive league win by defeating Newcastle United 2-1 at the Emirates on Monday. It was the fourth straight time that they came back from a position of deficit to claim all three points against their domestic rivals.
Their impressive run of form has elevated them up to the fourth position on the league standings and they now trail their bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur by just one point. In addition to their highly impressive form of late in the domestic league, Arsene Wenger’s men also inflicted a 3-0 defeat over AC Milan last week, although the result still saw them crash out of Europe.
All of this has led Campbell to believe that his former employers can end this topsy-turvy season in a positive way. He was present at an anti-racism event organised by Arsenal at Emirates Stadium, where he said, “The lads have shown a lot of spirit. You have to get a bit of the rub of the green, but that tends to come when you start being bolder on the pitch.
“Gamble on your skill, gamble in the box, gamble in thinking: ‘I am going to try this’. Start gambling your talent, basically. The more you bust a gut to win, the more you are going to see the crowd feed off that. You make your own luck, and against Newcastle there was a little deflection for the winning goal and the ball came to Vermaelen, but he was there because he busted a gut to get into the box.”
The 37-year-old centre-half, who was re-signed by Wenger as a backup player during the 2009-10 season, then lavished some praise on the current Arsenal captain Robin van Persie and said that the Dutchman has raised the bar for his teammates.
“Robin Van Persie is flying and banging in goals left, right and centre. Everyone is starting to gel and realising what it means to play for Arsenal. That level of confidence and class is what they should be aiming for all the time. Sure, sometimes you won’t reach that level but you have to work out how to grind out a result, or shut the game down. That is a learning curve,” Campbell said.
In 2001, Campbell made one of the most controversial moves in Premiership history by deciding to end his nine-year long affiliation with Spurs to sign for Arsenal. The move was clearly motivated by his desire to win trophies and that’s exactly what he did in the next five years.
He collected three FA Cup winners’ medals and two Premiership titles with Arsenal before leaving for Portsmouth. Those trophies were the last pieces of silverware that the Gunners won but Campbell believes that the current playing squad is capable of ending their title drought that has now stretched to almost seven years.
The former England international said, “Hard graft and talent go hand in hand. There are not many top players around the world who don’t work on their skill. Being responsible on and off the field is crucial. Everyone likes to have a great time but it is about realising: ‘I want to win the league or the cup, so I have to knuckle down here.’ You have to make sure you don’t waste your career and actually work hard and be a part of history.”
Meanwhile, club manager Wenger has said that even though his side’s remaining 10 matches are easier than Chelsea and Tottenham’s, he will not allow his players to take it easy.
Unlike the Blues and Spurs, Arsenal don’t have any Cup distractions from now on until the end of the season. In addition to that, the Gunners only have to face three Top 10 sides in their remaining league fixtures, which is why some people regard them as the favourites for the third position. But Wenger says that seemingly easy encounters can quickly turn into tricky ones in the Premiership and therefore, he won’t allow anyone to relax at this stage of the season.
In a recent interview with the club’s official website Arsenal.com, the Frenchman said, “[Sometimes] there are games that you think will be difficult, but they are slightly easier than expected, and sometimes the easy game is harder than expected.
“You don’t make any plans. The only thing we know is what is needed from us – to be at our best no matter what people say about the situation.
“[It is important] to keep your squad available and keep your spirit, togetherness and teamwork at a very high level. Also you must maintain belief and not tighten up. Be relaxed, focused and determined.”