It has been a case of same again for the much maligned Arsenal defensive from last season, despite the 17 clean sheets from last campaign’ Premier League games there was still a clear need to strengthen in that department and once more this has not been addressed.
There has been a lack of defensive depth within the squad for a few seasons and with the now departed Thomas Vermaelen not being replaced the situation is now worse than in previous campaigns. The current squad only has three recognisable central defenders, this has caused huge problems already this season with Calum Chambers having to play right back in Debuchy’s absence. This has left no cover for when Laurent Koscielny has been injured resulting in a soft defensive partnership which saw defensive collapses against Anderlecht, Swansea and Manchester United in just over a week.
Arsenal’s defenders and how they have performed?
The Arsenal vice captain has been ever present for Arsenal this campaign and it is just as well, he was called back from his pre season vacation early due to a need for defenders as another Champions League qualifier loomed as always seems to be the case. What Mertesacker lacks in pace he more than makes up for positional sense and in the recent absence of the injured Laurent Koscielny more pressure had been on the shoulders of the big German. As expected in the 13 League games he has featured in he has been reliable especially aerially winning 34 aerial duels, making 6 blocks and producing a huge 58 clearances from the defensive third.
Koscielny who is a real fan favourite at the Emirates has only made 8 League appearances so far this season due to injury and in his absence it was clear that his presence alongside Mertesacker was hugely missed. The French international provides the pace in their defensive partnership and without Koscielny present there is a real void within the back four for Wenger’s men. Another one of Kosscielny’s attributes is the change of tempo he brings from the centre back position, he is adept at dictating Arsenal’s tempo and pushing his midfield forward, with his absence there has not been a great deal of pressing from deep. Although he has only made a handful of appearances his stats still make impressive reading. The former Lorient defender has won 12 aerial duels as well as making 34 clearances.
Since his move from Southampton in the Summer Calum Chambers has shown some real quality that many were not sure he possessed, at just 19 years of age he has shown some real team leading abilites and by his own admission has played a lot more than he was ready for. He started pre season playing in central defence but due to an early injury to French right back Mathieu Debuchy he has been pushed out to the right hand side where he has performed admirably, it is a position he is used to due to his Southampton days but nevertheless has answered any critics there may have been after his £15 Million move from St Mary’s. Chambers has won more tackles than any of the other defenders 28 to be exact, winning 26 aerial duels as well as making a staggering 65 clearances from his defensive third.
Arsenal’s second choice left back has had a thankless task this season and has received some strong criticism with his performances in the central defence position. Although he is predominately left footed, whilst playing alongside Mertesacker for 7 games the central defence partnership looked incredibly unbalanced and as expected opposition were able to take advantage. Anderlecht mounted a 3 goal comeback as Arsenal dropped vital Champions league points at home as the Arsenal faithful understandably showed their disappointment as Wenger’s side left the pitch to a chorus of boos. Unfortunately for Monreal he has looked much like a fish out of water and Wenger had sent him down a creek without a paddle, this is what comes of not having an adequate transfer policy which is a topic for another day. Statistically Monreal’s performance don’t look as bad as many would have you believe, the Spaniard has won 28 aerial duels, made 40 clearances and won 19 tackles in the process.
Who Should Be Arsenal’s First Choice Partnership?
Admittedly there have been some hair-raising moments this season for Arsenal fans and there is still a real need for another central defender and a world class one at that, last season Mertesacker and Koscielny won real praise across the board if you take away the three hammerings to Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool (which was more to do with no protection more than their defensive display as a partnership). Mertesacker is now 30 and you would have to question whether he has the stamina to perform consistently week in week out for much longer, Chambers has been a revelation this season and with Debuchy returning to first team proceedings next week it could be time for Chambers and Koscielny to forge a partnership that is mobile and aggressive.
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