Resurgent Campbell can shine for England - Wenger

May 18, 2006

Sol Campbell's timely return to form should provide a World Cup boost for England, according to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

Campbell has endured a difficult season with loss of form and fitness.

Many predicted his outstanding career was at an end but he rose to the occasion in the Champions League final and looked something like his old self as the Gunners went down fighting to Barcelona.

He was commanding in the air, strong in the tackle and scored a thumping header to give Arsenal the lead.

Campbell, 31, was occasionally beaten for pace by the electric Samuel Eto'o but generally the signs were good for the experienced England defender, who joins Sven-Goran Eriksson's World Cup squad next week.

Team-mates Ashley Cole and Thierry Henry joined Wenger to hail the return of the real Campbell.

Wenger said: 'We can take at least one satisfaction from the night and I feel it is good for England.

'He will be competitive at the World Cup. He is rested because he has not played and he is very fit.

'I feel he has been sharper in the last two games.

'I am very happy for him because it shows that when he has to deliver in the big games he can do it.'

Campbell, who has 66 England caps, has played only 11 times in 2006 and has just one international game under his belt this season.

He was picked ahead of Rio Ferdinand for the 1-0 win against Austria in October but hobbled off injured in the second half.

Campbell's season plunged into despair on February 1 when he walked out on the Arsenal team at half-time after an awful 45 minutes against West Ham, at Highbury.

Boss Wenger said he had personal problems to overcome and then injuries delayed his comeback.

A knee injury to Philippe Senderos meant Campbell was thrust back into action for last month's Champions League semi-final second leg in Villarreal.

He looked sluggish and heavy in the 0-0 draw but he usually takes a few games to recover his match-sharpness and was impressive as 10-man Arsenal lost 2-1 to Barcelona, in Paris.

Skipper Henry: 'Sol was tremendous and he should be given the credit he deserves.

'When he was bad and had a hard time he was hammered. Tonight he was an inspiration.'

Campbell's return to form is unlikely to win him a place in Eriksson's first XI but it may convince the England boss to call for him if either Ferdinand or John Terry is hit by injury or suspension.

Jamie Carragher had taken advantage of Campbell's dramatic loss of form this season.

The Liverpool defender has established his credentials in central defence but Arsenal full-back Cole insists Campbell has proved his critics wrong and will not let England down.

Cole said: 'Sven's got a hard job picking one of the three central defenders but Sol's done well, shutting up a lot of critics who've said he's finished.

'He was brilliant today and scored a great goal. He's a great player who probably went through a lot of hard troubles but he's through that now and he did really well.'

Campbell put Arsenal ahead in the Stade de France but the Gunners, reduced to 10 men after Jens Lehmann's sending off in the 18th minute, lost to late goals from Eto'o and Juliano Belletti.

Wenger said: 'You could see how happy he was when he scored.

'I knew there was a goal in this game for him because Barcelona are not strong on set-pieces and Sol could be the one who scored.'

Campbell has found the net before in big games but his `goals' are usually accompanied by heartbreak.

He scored against Argentina in France 98, with the score at 2-2, but it was disallowed and England lost on penalties.

He scored again for his country against Portugal in the Euro 2004 quarter-final with the teams locked at 1-1 but it was ruled out again and England went on to lose a penalty shoot-out.