Campbell deal makes perfect sense
When Sol Campbell departed the outpost of Morecambe's Christie Park after a single game for Notts County, it looked like the curtain had come down on his career at elite level.
The one-time England defender immediately cut his losses on a lucrative contract - while Notts County put the embarrassing collapse of a deal signed amid great fanfare in context by claims Campbell "could not adjust to the long-term nature of the project under way."
This was easy-to-decipher code for Campbell realising he had dropped a massive clanger and hardly the scene-setter for a return to the Premier League, least of all at The Emirates.
Campbell, for such a low-key figure, has a flair for the unpredictable, but his return to Arsenal would not have been on anyone's radar when he quit Notts County in September.
The short-term deal he will sign at the Gunners goes against all of manager Arsene Wenger's main principles. Never sign a player you have previously sold. Never sign a player who has been in football exile and is now in his mid-30s.
Indeed, Wenger himself emphatically ruled out any idea of a deal in October. He is, however, a pragmatist as well as principled - and if you piece all the parts of this deal together, it makes perfect sense.
If Manchester City's capture of Patrick Vieira, another ex-Arsenal veteran, on a six-month contract worth a reported £140,000-a-week has logic behind it, then Wenger's decision to break a couple of his own unwritten rules of management to accommodate Campbell has even more to recommend it.
Campbell turned out for Arsenal's reserves on Tuesday
Campbell's return must immediately be placed in its proper context. He is not being brought back to play regularly. He is not being signed as the centrepiece of some grand future plan. He is at the Emirates to provide experienced cover for the established central defensive partnership of William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen.
He may offer this crucial pairing some respite in an FA Cup tie, but Wenger will not have pencilled him in as a starter. Campbell will bring insurance to an area where Arsenal need cover, and is someone Wenger knows and trusts to do a job on this strictly short-term basis.
Campbell will not have the burst of pace of old, but experience counts for plenty in the crucial defensive areas, especially when it comes to positioning. He may have lost speed, but he will not have lost the knowhow picked up over a long and successful career at the top for club and country.
Those airing doubts about Campbell's fitness for the job in the Premier League should consider this fact. He has been watched by Wenger on a daily basis for three months in training with Arsenal following his decision to leave Notts County.
There is no bigger stickler for fitness in the game than Wenger. He monitors the minutest detail about his players' physical well-being, and Campbell has been working with Arsenal fitness coach Tony Colbert before being given this unexpected opportunity.
The word out of London Colney is that Campbell has proved himself to be in outstanding condition, and if Wenger did not believe he was fit for purpose, he would not get a contract. Simple.
Wenger has also shown a willingness to work with, and appreciate, the quality of older players such as David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams and Steve Bould. He has never trusted solely to youth.
Campbell is also a proud and single-minded man. He will not want to risk embarrassment at a club where he won Premier League and FA Cups. And he will surely be adrenalin-fuelled simply by the buzz he will get from being back at Arsenal.
He will also be a player with a point to prove. Campbell will not want the final curtain on an outstanding career to be a 2-1 defeat at Morecambe in English football's lower reaches. He now has the opportunity to give himself a more fitting finale, although this is a chance he will barely be able to believe after his Notts County experience.
And as Martin Keown, another player whose career was extended by Wenger's meticulous regime, pointed out, central defenders can - in some instances - emulate some goalkeepers by getting better with age.
It all points to this being a wise move by Wenger, even if it flies in the face of his traditional, and invariably rigid, transfer policy.
And what about what Campbell can offer away from the pitch? He is a natural leader, someone who has the experience to offer sensible counsel to the younger members of an Arsenal squad that is yet to reach full maturity.
Campbell knows what it takes to win trophies - and do not forget his experience of doing so is more recent than Arsenal's after winning the FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008. This will also have been a factor for Wenger before deciding to re-sign Campbell.
He can help Arsenal's essentially youthful team discover what it takes to make the push from potential to finished product when it comes to silverware.
Campbell's comeback is a dream move for the player. It is also a perfect fit for Wenger and Arsenal.