Last weekend, Arsenal were courageous.
After the horrific injury to Aaron Ramsey and the game poised at 1-1, you could be forgiven thinking Arsenal wouldn’t rally and grab all three points.
But that’s what they did.
There have been comparisons to the Eduardo injury and how that Birmingham game panned out. We went a goal down, got ourselves into a winning position thanks to a Theo Walcott double and then we conceded a last minute penalty. William Gallas completely lost the plot and the rest is history. At the end of the season we would look back and point to that game as the turning point of our seasons title challenge.
But against Stoke City, we showed great character and mental strength to win the game.
And the major difference? We have a winner in the team. Someone that has been there and done that. A player who is obviously greatly respected in the dressing room for what he has achieved in his career.
That man is Sol Campbell.
When you compare him to William Gallas, who was effectively and ironically Campbell’s replacement, it’s clear that while the Frenchman is a fantastic player and athlete, he doesn’t command the same respect as someone of Campbell’s stature.
Campbell has had his critics, but he is a leader and players follow his example.
When Ramsey was shockingly hacked down by Mother Theresa, Sol was the first man to show his frustration and square up to Shawcock. Players like Fabregas, Vermaelen and Clichy followed his example and also his determination to win the game.
I’ve said in the past that with this young group of players, we are missing the raw anger when we score. If you don’t know what I mean, watch the goal celebrations from Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira, Pires, Freddie and the rest of the team in those successful years between 1998 to 2005.
Take a look at these celebrations from years gone by:
There’s that swagger and arrogance about them. It’s a “f*ck you we’re the best, get in there!” attitude you have when you’re a winner. Winning is a state of mind and the only player who goes mental when they score is Robin Van Persie. He believes that his goals will make the difference and could contribute to winning a trophy.
The celebrations when Fabregas and Vermaelen scored against Stoke were just like the old days. Of course, the horrific injury to Ramsey contributed to the adrenaline filled celebrations but everyone went crazy. Vermaelen’s celebration was full of emotion and who was leading the fist pumping?
The Sol Train.
You can’t fault the guy’s record – he is a winner pure and simple. When he saw the light and went to the red side of North London he won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups, and won the FA Cup with Portsmouth a couple of seasons ago. Credit to him, he even won a League Cup with Spurs, which is an achievement in itself.
I’ve said that once Van Persie’s injury we’ve missed his arrogance and determination on the pitch. Obviously his goals and assists, he is a winner. He wants to win. Winning is everything and he is one of the few leaders in the squad. You have players like Denilson and who don’t seem to care half the time.
We’ve all said that experience makes the difference when it gets the business end of the season, so if Arsenal can pull off probably one of the most surprising title wins of recent years then Sol Campbell could well be one of Arsene’s greatest ever signings.
Arsenal have been missing that winning influence, to keep on fighting until the end even when things are going against you. That ruthlessness to kill off games and take home all the points.
So in a team that is full of players who don’t know what it’s like to win, Sol could just be that difference come May.