Out with the new, in with the Sol at Arsenal

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Football, I can report, still has the power to amaze.

After a sabbatical of 3½ years, Sol Campbell’s all set to sign for Arsenal until the end of the season. Amazing because he’s 35, amazing because he’s hardly the age profile of the classic Wenger signing, and amazing because despite having trained for months with the club, nobody really saw it coming.

There’s no doubt we need cover at centre back, with Gallas and Vermaelen having played 56 games between them already this season, but I must say I never expected Wenger to plump for Sol.

But in the cold light of day, the deal makes sense. The January transfer window is not always the best for value, and nor is it the best time to prize away decent defenders. On top of that, we’ve got to bear in mind that Gallas and Vermaelen remain our first choice pairing. So anybody who comes in would probably have to accept it will be as backup. He’s massively experienced. He’s free. It’s a smooth fit on that basis. Welcome back, Sol-man.

On Sky Sports News yesterday – which when still in the first rush of giddy excitement at the news, as it was salivating at the chops, raised the prospect of Sol forcing his way into Capello’s World Cup squad – Alan Smith pointed out that it’s not as if Wenger has gone in blind. Months of training will have told Wenger all he needs to know. Campbell looks fit. And he’s certainly in a good frame of mind if his interview is anything to go by:

“I cannot tell you how much I have missed playing…” he told ESPN, “it’s fantastic, great, marvellous… I’ve missed it and I’ve a gut feeling this is the right move. It’s no longer a hunger to get back – it’s turned into a craving. I am champing at the bit. I’m fresh, I’m raring to go. It’s unbelievable to be back at Arsenal.”

I have to say, after my initial amazement I’ve got a good buzz about this. I always rated Campbell and him having a second chance at the club is a great if improbable story. Any signing gets the place going, and this one definitely has – even if he’s not the long-term solution. That can wait until the summer.

He can sit in the café at Colney and reminisce with Gael Clichy about the Invincibles. More importantly, he can be a steady and experienced hand on the deck both on and off the pitch. Of course, he’s still got to cut it when he plays, and that will be an interesting one to see, but as a free short-term backup deal, I think it’s worth a punt.

It does also mean we will now surely see Senderos leave this window, possibly very soon. I have to say, I feel desperately sorry for Swiss Phil. He’s clearly no part of Wenger’s plans but he can probably thank Djourou’s injury for his extra six months rotting in Arsenal’s reserves. My own view is he is, was, a decent centre back with room to improve and his best years ahead of him, but there’s only so long you can hope a player will grow into his potential and Wenger has seen all he wants to now. He’s simply not been good enough to displace our first-choice pairing, but he wants and needs to play more games. It’s a catch-22. Best now to let him go – and he certainly wants that himself. Despite what must be a deeply frustrating time of things, he’s never moaned in the press or kicked up a storm. I hope he gets his move.

What else? There’s the surreal sight of Adebayor thinking he’s still an Arsenal player, talk of a new 17-year-old signing called Galinda and a pressing need for me to get up and go to work.

Better do that then.



Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.