League could be won by the team with the most Sol
WITH Arsenal emerging large in the rearview mirrors of Chelsea and Manchester United as the English Premiership title race becomes a race between three teams, the most eyecatching transfer in the January window has been the return of Sol Campbell to north London.
Now 36 and having lost the proverbial yard of pace, canny Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has decided that the veteran defender is the man who can make the difference between winning the league and losing it.
Only a couple of seasons ago, his arch-enemy Sir Alex Ferguson – and that’s the correct term because in their many skirmishes Fergie once slammed Wenger as being “the only manager who doesn’t share the traditional postmatch glass of wine” – also produced a masterstroke when he recalled the ageing Hendrik Larsson from Sweden and the striker helped deliver the goals that fired United over the line.
Both Ferguson and Wenger know that the January window isn’t one where you’re going to stun the world of football by landing a really top name at a big fee.
The simple reason is because by the time January comes, most of the top players have already been cup-tied in competitions from the Champions League to the FA Cup, even to the Carling Cup. However, in terms of shoring up a side, there are plenty of bargains out there. And Ferguson and Wenger are two of the masters at sniffing out a bargain.
Interestingly, in signing Larsson in 2007 for a couple of months on loan from Helsingborg, Ferguson decided that a frontman would suit his side best in their charge to the title. Wenger obviously reckons his squad is well equipped to find the net – with 53 league goals they’re by far the division’s most prolific team – and that it’s in defence where the difference between winning and losing the title will be.
Campbell himself is an interesting person. There is no doubting his talent and even in an under-performing England side at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups he, in both instances, was named in the official Fifa XI at the end of the tournament.
He is not the traditional “English” defender though. He won’t cut an attacker off at the knees to prevent him going past and he will try to pass the ball out of defence rather than apply one big size 13 boot to it and welly it over the halfway line.
And, he is fiercely private – which, in the celebrity and WAG culture of the modern footballer, goes against the flow.
Of course, he has never been forgiven by Tottenham fans for making the short trip across north London to join Arsenal all those years ago, though as a football at the peak of his powers he was looking to maximise his chance of silverware. And, it was the right move.
Then, there have been the constant spewings of pure hatred from the barbaric section of crowd that attends football matches. Despite being married, suggestions over the years have suggested that it is “for show”. Just what that has to do with his ability to play the sport, or conduct himself as a model professional and upstanding human being has to do with things is unfathomable, but in England the chants have followed him around.
Last May, two Spurs supporters were found guilty following video footage of a game at Fratton Park, when Campbell was playing for Portsmouth. The judge found that the supporters – one aged 42 and one 13-years-old – had shouted, “Come on gay boy, that’s my gay boy”.
From the same match, video footage showed other chants shouted by up to 2,500 fans, including: “Sol, Sol, wherever you may be, Not long now until lunacy, We won’t give a f*** if you are hanging from a tree,”; “Sol’s a wanker”; and other abuse.
By the time April 10 comes, and the trip to White Hart Lane, Campbell and his Arsenal team-mates might be in the perfect position to ram any chants down the throats of the scum that issue them.