Several times over the last few years we have all heard about how Arsenal lacked the necessary squad depth to sustain a strong title challenge. We have heard about how our 1st XI is very good but the squad players aren't good enough to supplement them. And truly there have been periods when we were light in numbers or in the quality of our squad players. Many do not get "squad depth" though. It's why Mesut Ozil is out for 12 weeks and many are outraged Arsene's plans didn't include another Mesut Ozil (or say Cesc Fabregas) to replace him in case something like this happened. Well, except you're Real Madrid, that doesn't happen often.
There are two parts to squad depth- quantity and quality. You usually want to have 2 players in each position, a 3rd choice goalkeeper, and maybe 1 or 2 fillers probably from the reserves team. 11 players alone won't take you through the whole season, especially at Arsenal where we get an obscene amount of injuries for whatever reason. You need players for rotation when players in the first team get injured, need a rest, or for tactical reasons. You also need these players to be of good quality, or at least good enough to perform in the absence of the starters/whenever they are called upon. This is where it gets tough though, because if this player is of similar quality to the starters then he could be starting at another club of similar/comparable status or if he remains a squad player for more than one season he will leave for more regular football somewhere else.
Two players per position. Sometimes even this proves to be insufficient. Squad depth also comes in the form of having versatile players. Having this kind of players gives even more cover for the team if the need arises. Versatile players are more expensive now as it's becoming more appreciated in the game.
Let's bring all this back to Arsenal. I've seen comments about us having a thin squad and I do not understand this. Quantity-wise, we have 2 per position. More than 2 in some positions actually. We also have several versatile players. All our attackers except Giroud can play in multiple positions and that's a nice security to have. In defence, it is another story though. Many don't include Bellerin when they count the first team squad, much less Hayden, so they run with their "only 6 defenders" mantra. Maybe I'm stretching it by counting Hayden as our 4th choice CB but he's England u21's captain so why can't he be our 4th CB? And everyone knew ( and many called for it, if I may add) Bellerin was replacing Jenkinson. So, assuming Hayden doesn't count, we have 7 defenders. 1 off the "2 players per position" theory. Numerically, we are only lacking a 4th choice CB. My opinion about 4th choice CBs hasn't changed but that's a different story. They rarely play. People need to remember Thomas Vermaelen left us because he couldn't get games; and he was 3rd choice. We've needed a 4th CB (Hayden) once in 13 games and that was in an almost completely changed line-up in a cup competition. Manchester City's 4th CB Nastasic hasn't played a game, Chelsea's 4th CB Kurt Zouma has played 90 minutes in the COC. The CB partnership works on understanding and as such it is a rarely rotated position.
Quality-wise, in the front 5 I think we have a very solid set of players. We have enough quality to deal with injuries/tiredness there. That doesn't mean quality won't drop, it will, but there's more than enough quality to do the job for those 5 positions. Rarely do you have a backup player who is as good as the player he's being benched for. Looking at the back 5, we have excellent quality in GK and LB positions, we're solid at RB with Debuchy, Bellerin and Chambers. I'm a big fan of Hayden and he was one of our best performers in the Southampton loss but that's just his 2nd senior game and perhaps a bit too little for a sample to judge him on but our other 3 CBs- Kos, Per and Chambers are quality as well. Put it this way, I wouldn't have a problem if we played Bellerin against a non-top-7 team in the PL. Monreal, during Gibbs layoff this season, was our most consistent defender. Chambers, from what we've seen is going to be very good. He's already very good. The DM position is where we don't have real quality. While I think most of the criticism Arteta gets is undeserved and he gets it only because he's not black and doesn't stand a beastly 7"11 while being able to outrun Usain Bolt, I expected us to strengthen that position. We "reportedly" chased Bender, Carvalho and in the last few days Schneiderlin has come out to say a move was in the pipelines before Southampton backed out. At the end of the day we failed to do a deal for any of the targets but I'm happy the club is looking into it. I'm sure if the right player turns up we'll do something.
It's hard to get quality players who will be happy as backups. I can't stress this enough. Manolas and Alderweireld turned us down for Roma and Southampton respectively because of game time. Unless you're offering silly money, in a competition with a club with similar reputation, you'll probably lose out if you cannot offer game time.
Yes, the squad looks thin at the moment but any squad would with the same number of players we have out. You can't really plan for long term injuries. Even if the current injury crisis isn't his fault, I had hoped Shad Forsythe's arrival would help things. Against Chelsea we had Theo, Debuchy, Arteta and Ramsey out. That's four first starters out and we could still field 4 international quality players to replace them. That's depth. It's not enough though. I'd rather have our first team players for the big games. Chelsea wouldn't have chosen to play us with Remy, Mikel and Zouma instead of Costa, Fabregas and Terry, for example. There are debates over what causes our injuries and the medical team has been changed two times or so. Honestly? I don't really care. I just want them to stop. Too many injuries will render even the strongest squad depth powerless.
Overall, I think we have squad players of very good quality and solid squad depth. What do you rate our squad depth from 1-10?
This is without players like Gnabry, Diaby, Sanogo, Joel Campbell, Lukas Podolski, Francis Coquelin etc.