By Chris Harris
Sunday's FA Cup defeat was the best of times and the worst of times for Sol Campbell.
The 35-year-old was back at the heart of Arsenal's defence for the first time since the 2006 Champions League Final following his surprise return to the Club but Campbell's second spell as a Gunner got off to a forgettable start as Stoke ran out 3-1 winners at the Britannia Stadium.
The centre back marshalled Arsenal's defence with all his usual authority but he had mixed emotions after the match. Campbell was delighted to be back but deflated to miss out on the trophy he lifted at Wembley as Portsmouth captain in 2008.
"It was nice being out there and great to be back," said Campbell, "but it was a shame we couldn’t get a win. It’s a massive up competition and it is not nice to be knocked out.
"Some games come down to moments and little decisions here and there. For the first goal we didn’t really pick them up. It is not easy when you are 1-0 down so early on. We should have pressed a little bit more.
"Stoke had a lot of experienced players. They know how to get up for a cup game and play to their strengths and that’s what they did. We will have to roll our sleeves up and go again. It just came down to moments throughout the game and they capitalised on them really.
"I felt great though – I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in. It was just great being back out there, working hard and trying to win games."
Some will see Arsenal's FA Cup exit as a missed opportunity with Chelsea the only traditional 'Big Four' club still left in the competition following Third-Round defeats for Manchester United and Liverpool earlier this month.
The vast majority of Arsenal's squad at Stoke will get plenty of other opportunities to stake a claim for the famous old trophy - seven of the starting line-up were 21 or under - but Campbell had a warning for his youthful team-mates after Sunday's defeat.
"We just have to dust ourselves off and realise how precious these cup competitions and the league points are" he said.
"They are special. The chance to win something doesn’t come around very often. Even if you have got a fantastic team, you have really got to earn the right to win things. There was a chance to win it – I suppose the rest of the lads are saying ‘we will see what happens next year’. But every time you go out there you have got to really go for it.
"I think the team as a whole needs to be up for it. It is a blow to be out of the FA Cup. It’s a great cup to win. It’s a shame we couldn’t go on a nice cup run but we will have to have a bit of a rethink.
"There are a lot of big games coming up and, with the African boys coming back too, the whole squad is definitely going to be used. I will be up for it."Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source