With a long term injury to new boy Debuchy now confirmed at 3 months and a short term injury to Monreal, our defensive options are getting weaker & weaker.
Even before the Debuchy injury, many if not all Arsenal fans were bemoaning the lack of an additional centre back signing to replace the now departed ex skipper Thomas Vermaelen, so what is going on when it comes to our defensive options (or rather the lack of)?
I recall in a press conference during the summer when Wenger all but confirmed Vermaelen's departure during pre-season, he stated categorically that he would be replaced. Having already taken steps to replace the departed Sagna with Debuchy & Chambers (whilst allowing Jenkinson to leave on loan to West Ham) there was no reason to doubt Wenger's intentions in the centre back department. So why did he not do what he promised?
Perhaps when he signed Chambers, presumably seen as a backup right back, at least initially, he realised just what a competent centre back he is and it persuaded him that maybe he'd inadvertently already signed his replacement centre back, albeit we now know that young Chambers can't possibly cover both centre back and right back positions regularly, especially when there's a long term injury as we now have with Debuchy,
Was the problem in signing a centre back, as some have suggested, that players looked at the Koscielny/Mertesacker partnership which is now so embedded and thought they'll always be 3rd choice and rarely play so opted to go elsewhere? I find this hard to believe. Good players have egos and they'd believe they were good enough to get into the first team & break up that partnership. After all, we didn't have trouble persuading Ospina to sign even though Szczesny is clearly our no 1 keeper.
Perhaps Wenger felt our young players provided the required cover? I write this just after we went out to Southampton in the Capital One Cup with a line-up that featured the likes of Hayden & Chambers as well as Coquelin in defence. Could these players offer the backup we need in the Premiership and Champions League too?
Until they get that chance it's hard to know if they're all up to the task although in Coquelin's case he isn't really a defender, yes a defensive midfield player but not someone you'd naturally choose in your back four. Also, he's been knocking around the first team for a while and failed to make the breakthrough. As for Hayden & indeed even to some extent Chambers too, they're young & raw and will inevitably make mistakes whilst learning on the job. Is that really the best we should expect as our defensive back up?
Maybe the real crux of the issue was that Wenger simply wouldn't play what was needed to land the players we were interested in & who were available? It's hard to imagine that he wasn't at least looking to bring in another defender. That he's opted to go in to the season with only two experienced centre backs is astonishing, Last season I felt we just about got away with having only 3 centre backs plus Sagna as back up so to have even fewer options this season is impossible to defend. With the Debuchy injury, it is already coming back to haunt us. Just think what might happen if Mertesacker or Koscielny picked up a suspension or worse still got injured between now and Christmas, the consequences are unthinkable yet were completely avoidable.
There has been some suggestion that we night now look at free agents as a potential solution. I doubt this will happen. If they're a free agent, my question is why? Good quality players are snapped up by someone during the transfer window. I think it's highly unlikely we'll go down that route but Wenger must act in January to strengthen our centre back options because the bottom line is there is no defence for our lack of depth in defence.
Mean Lean's Response
We are most definitely short in defence this season, even more so given the long term injury to Mathieu Debuchy. The question of why Arsene didn't invest more at centre back has come up a number of times since the start of the summer and it's fully understandable why those questions are being asked.
Last season's third choice centre back left the club this summer because he didn't get enough games and that right there is the balance that Arsene Wenger has to find.
It was remarkable that both Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were almost ever presents last season when we needed them, that fortune cannot (unfortunately) run forever.
Arsene stated a number of times that he would buy to replace Vermaelen and this was often said after we had spent £16m on Calum Chambers, so why did nobody else come in?
With Vermaelen and Sagna as options last season, he would have seen that we were short in this area so I don't buy the often held notion that he was content with our numbers and thought we had enough. It is difficult to be anything other than speculative but I assume that we just could not buy the players that Arsene had listed.
He would have wanted a player who could distribute the ball, probably a player who can partner Mertesacker or Chambers. A player who would accept being back up and come in when required. But once said player is in the team, he needs to be good enough to play Champions League level football.
Maybe obtaining that player was not as simple as we want it to be, perhaps Arsene did not want to offer another player who wasn't good enough a contract after ridding the club of players who could not make the grade. Perhaps Arsene would rather put his trust in Hayden over Squillaci for example. I'm not saying that there are not better players out there who we could buy, I couldn't because I don't know what the market is like. However I do know that Arsenal, Manchester United and even Chelsea are in need of another centre back but none of those teams will feel satisfied with the options available.
I'm not going to stress about our centre back situation just yet though. We have three centre backs and they are all fit at the time of writing this. When two of those players are missing then my panic will rise for sure. Even with that, if Mertesacker and Koscielny were out for a game or two who knows, maybe we could cope with that if we click at the other end. Personally I would have brought along anyone on a year deal if we could not find the player we wanted. I'd rather have the numbers than not at all but that's just me.
While I'm not blind to our lack of depth in that area of the pitch, we as football fans tend to fixate on worse case scenarios. What if van Persie gets injured (during his last season), what if Giroud picks up a serious injury (fit all last season), what if our centre backs have long term injuries (also last season)
It will probably catch up with us eventually but it might be worth waiting until that day comes.
Fingers crossed it never does. Injury seems pretty occupied with our midfield anyway.
If you want to talk things Arsenal and want to share with other Arsenal fans then try your hand at writing in the Your Vision section