Confusion and disbelief: But Sol Campbell is an Arsenal player again

Sol Campbell's bizarre return to Arsenal colours on Tuesday evening in a 4-2 reserve win at West Ham s Upton Park, just a hefty clearance from his old Stratford home, was hardly greeted with red and white bunting and gloating text messages to Spurs fans.

Sol Campbell's bizarre return to Arsenal colours on Tuesday evening in a 4-2 reserve win at West Ham's Upton Park, just a hefty clearance from his old Stratford home, was hardly greeted with red and white bunting and gloating text messages to Spurs fans.

"Madness, total madness," was one incredulous text to Sky Sports as news broke of Campbell's return, nine years after he began his first spell at the club.

But Arsene Wenger clearly thinks not, especially as he is desperate for quality cover for first choice central defensive duo, Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas.

Philippe Senderos is an inadequate stop-gap, the ineffectual Mikael Silvestre is ageing fast and the strength, power and goals of Abou Diaby, who can cover at the back if necessary, is needed in midfield to plug the absence of Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song.

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Campbell, the 35-year-old former England defender, has been keeping fit at Arsenal's London Colney training complex for several weeks and Wenger has had plenty of opportunities to see him close up.

Only last Friday, he told the media: "Sol has a fantastic attitude and good fitness.

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"Of course he is not the youngest but he is in very good shape. He can still play in the Premier League, I've said that many times.

"He is important in the dressing-room as well. He's positive with the young players. I think a Premier League club will sign him."

His former defensive partner Tony Adams said earlier this week: "I don't think he is a player Arsene would go for, he's not of the age. But personally I think he could be a good option."

Campbell's turnaround has been remarkable; four months ago he was turning out for his new club, League Two outfit Notts County, in an away game at Morecambe's Christie Park, after signing an ill-advised five year contract at Nottingham's second club.

He cut a disconsolate figure as County lost 2-1. Three days later he walked out of the club.

Arsenal historians will know Campbell follows in the footsteps of another veteran, post-war striker Tommy Lawton, who enjoyed one final hurrah at Arsenal after dropping down the divisions to Meadow Lane.

Lawton struggled with his unexpected return to the big time but two former Arsenal stars are hopeful Campbell can enjoy a fruitful second spell at the club.

"The thing with Arsenal is not a lot of teams get the ball against us. He will not have a lot of work to do and that will work to his advantage," said Paul Merson.

"I was lucky enough to play with Sol for England. He will not have to run 40 yards down the channel - he can read the game, that's a big strength."

Charlie Nicholas agreed: "He needs matches - but I think it is a good piece of business.

"He has decent respect in the group of players and you are looking at a guy who has seen it and done it.

"Arsenal are often accused of not having enough muscle to compete so he will help. I would expect him to play in the FA Cup and come in when there are injuries."

But despite his success at Highbury - winning three FA Cup and two Premier League medals in five seasons - Arsenal fans seemed to lose patience with him by the end of his time.

An abysmal first half display in a home defeat to West Ham spelt the beginning of the end and when he failed to reappear after half time, subsequently going AWOL for several days, few North Bankers had sympathy for the �100,000 a week star.

A "fresh challenge" on the continent was cited as the official reason for his departure nearly four years ago, but despite reputed interest from Spain, Italy and Turkey, the nearest he got to the European mainland was Portsmouth.

His last appearance for Arsenal WAS abroad, in Paris in the 2006 Champions League final, when he gave his side the lead with a first half header before Barcelona won the game.

It was a sad end to an exceptional period for both Campbell and Arsenal.

Blogger 'arsenalmuse' harshly wrote yesterday: "It (Campbell's return) smacks of confusion. I'm thinking we don't want players who are over the age of 30 but then we bring in an ex-player, who left BECAUSE he was nearing 30.

"While we're at it, bring back Frank McLintock, Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp, Pat Jennings too ...who cares?"

Merson, though, is asking fans to give Campbell - and Wenger - a chance.

"The two centre halves, Gallas and Vermaelen, have been outstanding, but they can't play every game," he said.

"Arsene must have seen something in training to make him do a deal. And who are we to doubt Arsene Wenger?

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