The Barclays Premier League has a little more than a month and a half of football left in it and with the position of league champions nearly confirmed as Manchester United gallop towards a record-breaking 20th league title, the future of Arsenal Football Club is not quite as defined as that of the Red Devils.
Sitting in fifth place, four points behind arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur albeit with a game in hand, Champions League football for the year 2013-14 is in no way guaranteed for Arsene Wenger’s men.
A significant number of players have left the club on loan this season, and with the close of the season now on the horizon, it’s time to analyse what these players could have brought to Arsenal if they hadn’t left Ashburton Grove temporarily.
Ryo Miyaichi, on loan at Wigan Athletic
Signed from Chukyodai Chuykyo High School in Japan, winger Ryo Miyaichi has only featured twice for Arsenal in League Cup games at the Emirates Stadium – one against Shrewsbury, the second against Bolton Wanderers, both off the bench.
In an attempt to acclimatise him to European football, the talented Japanese was loaned out to Feyenoord Rotterdam in the Dutch Eredivisie almost immediately after signing for the North Londoners. While in the Netherlands, Miyaichi played 12 games, scoring three and assisting five goals.
The Rotterdam fans nicknamed him ‘Ryodinho’, drawing comparisons with Brazilian legend Ronaldinho due to his skills with the ball. Feyenoord therefore was an outing that showed impressive returns for a player who has just begun playing in Europe.
But as that loan move showed, going to the continent was only a baby step. To inculcate his Japanese starlet to the rough-and-tumble nature of the English game, Miyaichi was loaned out to Bolton Wanderers in January 2012.
Then-boss Owen Coyle praised Miyaichi’s talent even before he had taken to the pitch. The Japanese made his debut in a behind closed doors game against Preston North End, scoring the only goal of the game and also scored on his first start in Bolton’s 2-0 FA Cup win against Millwall.
Bolton’s February Player of the Month then joined Wigan Athletic for the current season to get to know the atmosphere of the Premier League. Unfortunately, his learning curve was to remain stationary for a while as he suffered a groin injury keeping him out for a majority of the season.
He limped off on his comeback as well, being withdrawn at half time in a League Cup tie after suffering an ankle injury.
There are some who might’ve wanted the Japan winger to feature for Arsenal this season, but it is quite clear that he will be a part of the Gunners’ first team plans given the way he is progressing.
The signs are already there. He was a member of Arsenal’s Far East trip in 2011, playing against the Malaysia All Stars Team and his work permit is one granted on the grounds of exceptional talent.
Emmanuel Frimpong, on loan at Fulham
Ghanaian international Emmanuel Frimpong has been at Arsenal since the age of nine. After featuring heavily in Arsenal’s pre-season preparations in the Emirates Cup and was praised by Arsene Wenger as being a fighter.
Good things were predicted for the youngster who then suffered an Anterior Cruciate Ligament break in August. That kept him out until June 2011; on his return, he was placed on the loan market as he envisioned a return to first-team action.
Arsene Wenger, however, decided to draft him straight into the first team. Substitute appearances against Newcastle United and Udinese Calcio were to whet his appetite for a more significant role in Arsenal’s first-team squad.
But he was sent off on his league debut in a 2-0 home loss to Liverpool after receiving a second yellow card as his ‘fighting’ qualities came to the fore. They were visible once again during Arsenal’s home exit at the hands of Manchester City in the League Cup, where Frimpong was involved in a tunnel bust-up with former team-mate Samir Nasri.
He then spent the remainder of the season on loan when he moved to Wolves in the 2012 January transfer window, but another ligament injury cut short his stay at the Molineux.
The 2013 season saw him move to Charlton Athletic on a six-week loan deal before sealing a temporary move to Fulham where he currently is.
That he values the shirt and the ideals Arsenal stand for is of little doubt. That he will fit into this team as another of the Arsenal Academy is also of little doubt. But Frimpong has been criticised for his lack of discipline the pitch and a little too much investment in his brand of ‘Dench’ clothing.
If, however, his Fulham move is to blood him into the first team as a future player, then Arsenal might offer him a new contract. His current one expires in the summer. Had he featured for the first team this season, he would have most likely provided a defensive foil to the more creative Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey or Tomas Rosicky, irrespective of who played.
But because of the presence of Abou Diaby, Mikel Arteta and the up-and-coming Francis Coquelin, Frimpong would have found first team minutes limited.
Joel Campbell, on loan at Real Betis
Costa Rican forward Campbell is a youth product of the Central American nation’s best club, FC Saprissa.
It was therefore rather obvious that he had the potential to achieve great things when Arsenal swooped for this hitherto unknown prodigy. But work permit requirements from the UK Border Agency being what they are, Campbell was not allowed one on account of his lack of international caps.
UK Work Permit rules for football state that in order to be eligible for a work permit, a player must have played more than 75% of all competitive games for his senior team and his nation should have been ranked 70 or above in FIFA’s ranking of international teams.
Although he played six out of seven games after being given his international debut against Cuba in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, he did not play the previous nine competitive fixtures, which meant he’d played only 40% of all competitive games for his country.
But this season has ensured that getting a work permit looks like a formality. Campbell has played in all but one of his nation’s nine competitive fixtures, which means he has played 89% of all games. In addition, he has scored four goals in those games and a return of one goal every two games is very impressive at any stage of top-flight football.
Now temporarily at Real Betis after Arsenal failed to secure a work permit for him through the method of ‘exceptional talent’, he has shown bags of quality when mostly deployed out wide in a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 formation.
Although he’s only scored two goals, both of them have amazing quality, the Costa Rican – whose nation is ranked 64th in the world and therefore surpasses the last requirement for a work permit – has the spontaneity and predatory instincts which won over Lorient manage Christian Gourcuff during Campbell’s first loan spell; these are qualities that Arsene Wenger values very highly.
Had he been at Arsenal this season, one might have seen a potential Lukas Podolski in the making. But he is still raw and has a tendency to flit in and out of games and is therefore surely in the future plans of Arsenal.
For now, he will ply his trade away from Ashburton Grove.Published 26 Mar 2013, 14:34 IST