Wenger: Sol still the best
By Tom Adams. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Arsene Wenger has declared that Sol Campbell is still the best centre back in England.
The imperious stopper has missed large chunks of the season due to injury, allowing Chelsea's John Terry to recently feature in a starting role for England against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan.
This season has seen Terry emerge as one of Europe's most commanding defenders, as he has impressed in all competitions and will surely rank amongst the favourites for the Player of the Year award.
However Wenger is insistent that Campbell should see off the challenge of the Chelsea man and reclaim his place under Sven Goran Eriksson for future internationals.
Whilst the competition for defensive positions is fierce in the England set-up, Wenger is sure that his stopper remains the outstanding candidate ahead of both Terry and Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand.
"When Sol is fully fit he is still, in my view, the number one player in England in that position," said Wenger.
"This season unfortunately Sol has never been at his best because he has never been completely injury-free.
"There's a competition for that place in the England squad because of the strengths of Ferdinand and Terry but in my view Sol should still be England's centre half.
"The competition is a great thing for me though, because it gives Sol an extra reason to be at his best for Arsenal."
Campbell is set to return to the Gunners squad after struggling with an ankle problem since January, and should provide Wenger with a timely boost ahead of next week's FA Cup semi-final against Blackburn.
Another key player to return from injury is Brazilian midfielder Gilberto, who made his comeback against Norwich last week after six months out with a back problem.
Wenger also enthused about the qualities of the World Cup winner, lauding him as an essential component in the Gunners set-up.
"He is the kind of player you need in every team," Wenger continued.
"[Claude] Makelele is like it for Chelsea, Roy Keane for Manchester United, players with terrific attitude.
"They think like a fireman, always imagine the worst and think where they should be if it does so they can deal with the problem straight away.
"That fireman's attitude is very important in any team."