A different perspective on Arsenal’s apparent lack of CB-cover!
Many Gooners, including yours truly, have highlighted the risk – or should that be sheer irresponsibility? – of not recruiting additional CB cover in the last transfer window. We can consider ourselves lucky that our CB-duo of Koz-BFG stood strong more or less during the entire 2013-2014 season, as they gained us many a point with their well-organised and expert defending. But it was also good to know we had nobody else than the Verminator warming the bench in case one of the two would get injured; and of course there was also Sagna who suddenly had turned into a half-decent CB.
The latter two have gone and we signed a young, albeit very promising, CB/RB in the name of Chambers. Any decent organisation nowadays holds a risk-register, and the potential of either BFG or Koz getting long-term injured, or god forbid both of them joining Arsenal’s cosy sickbay, is surely somewhere on there.
So is Arsene/the club acting irresponsibly by letting two giants go and not recruiting appropriate, experienced CB cover?
I say yes and no, at about 30/70. The Dutch have a saying: ‘iets doen met de Franse slag’, which means something like ‘doing something the French way’, as in not very thorough or thought-through. Arsene’s approach to managing risk reminds me sometimes of how French cars used to be: looked great, fun driving experience and full of luxury inside, but not the most reliable, if you get me (and I drove a few of them…. but all company cars hahaha 😉 ).
Arsene inherited a solid defence when he first joined us, and by signing Sol Campbell – one of the very best he ever made imo – he ensured the continuation of it for quite a while. But once Sol left – how bizarre was that, hey? – we have not seen the same solidity to our defence we once were so used to.
I want to say last season’s defence came very close, but then I think back about our mega-defeats again and I am not so sure whether that would be fooling myself. We did not buy a DM either and it all remains to be seen whether Wenger has done the right thing. I hope he has but have my doubts about it nonetheless.
But Arsene has a plan, although I cannot state that I know what it exactly looks like.
He is always evolving our style of play, and I reckon he has decided to go with two ‘footballing midfielders’ in the two deep midfield positions and he will not continue with 4-1-4-1 for long. He has many a midfielder to accommodate and will feel he has great options for filling the ‘2’ in his 4-2-1-3 with real quality, and I fully expect him to play Ramsey and Wilshere there more and more from now on, but either of them can be combined with Arteta (the captain after all!), Flamini, Cazorla or Rosicky, etc.
So, although I would have loved to see us getting a proper, footballing DM, who can defend and boss the area in front of the defence like no other, I do understand Wenger’s apparent hesitation to finally get us one. This season we will see whether our soft-underbelly in the heart of our midfield will come to cost us or not.
But what about our defence? Why did he let TV5 go before a replacement was signed; why did he not buy another one before the TW shut? Is he that stupid or irresponsible?
Of course he is not stupid and neither irresponsible. But maybe the classical approach of having at least two quality players for each of the four defensive positions does not work anymore; and Wenger has come up with what could be a very effective alternative: less defenders but with more rotation and, in the process, less dissatisfaction within the team.
Last season, the likes of TV5, Monreal and Jenkinson were largely spectators: managing just 24 PL starts between them, an average of just eight. And although Wenger should probably rotate his players more, this is inevitable as long as there are no major injuries. But football careers are short and players (need to be) hungry and ambitious: they want to play rather than just collect a payslip every week… and we don’t want those sorts of mercenaries at the club anyway… we sell them to the Northern Oilers hahaha.
And come to think of it, with Debuchy, Koz, BFG, Gibbs, Monreal and the brilliantly multi-functional and skilled chameleon that is Calum Chambers, Wenger might just have got the balance right between playing enough football by everyone AND having decent cover for all key areas. Say we play 55 games in all competitions this season: that is 220 games in total for all four positions – if we divide those by the six players mentioned above, we come to a fine average of about 37 games per player.
Of course there is more cover in the team as well, as Flamini can help out and the young and promising talents of Bellerin and Hayden can also be used (and there is Coquelin as well). But the older Frenchman will be used mostly in midfield and the talents will still be patient enough to accept their roles within the team.
I still think Wenger will not rotate a lot as he likes to play with a consistent back-four as much as possible: and who would not?! But suspension and injuries occur regularly during a season and this should ensure the aforementioned balance to remain effective. Debuchy, Koz, BFG and Gibbs are likely to play most of the games, but I bet both Monreal will get stints at LB as well as CB, and Chambers will do the same at RB and CB (and maybe even midfield).
We have enough cover for the full back positions, as in the classical approach of two quality players per position. And as both of the cover players can also play in the centre, Arsene might have found the perfect balance now. I hear you say, but what if both Koz and BFG get injured: we will be fecked! Well, in that case we play Chambers and Flamini or Monreal at the back, with Debuchy and Gibbs or Monreal as the FBs. Even if all first-choice players get injured or suspended, the line up of Bellerin, Chambers, Flamini and Monreal as our back four is not the worst one I can think of by any stretch.
Alternatively, we could keep pressing Wenger to buy us one or two top quality CBs to warm the bench and wait for their chance – as if they are readily available and willing to accept such a role. We only have to look at TV5’s desperation to leave us – one of our most hungry and Arsenal-loyal Gunners, and club captain in the process! – to know this is far less realistic than many of us think.
Will there be no defensive signings in the foreseeable future then? Well, I reckon Nacho is on his last chance (and he has really impressed me this season) and Wenger is watching him closely till January; and in the meantime he is keeping the nr.5 shirt and a suitcase full of cash ready to pounce, if so required.
Wenger might well have out-thought us arm-chair Gooners once more! 😉
Written by: TotalArsenal.
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