For years the accepted wisdom at most clubs and certainly at Arsenal has been that you should start a new season with four centre backs all ready and able to be called upon whenever needed.
As recently as last season, we started with Mertasacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen and Squillaci. The problem with this system becomes clearer as you move along the list; the drop in quality is substantial.
The practicalities have been to have two centre backs playing, one on the bench and one doing very little apart from losing match sharpness in the reserves and picking up a large pay cheque.
Now as tough as it sounds to have to pick up a large pay cheque for seemingly doing very little, there is an expensive trade off; the fourth choice CB will almost certainly lose his chance to play first team football, ok he will play one or two games here and there but that is it.
So it becomes a balancing act, clubs want the best player they can get while knowing that if the player is any good he will not want to give up the opportunity to play.
It is the same at all clubs, a forth choice CB trades his chance to play football for a wage that is higher than he would be getting at a lesser club and so it follows that the higher the wage a club is prepared to pay the better the quality of forth choice back up will be.
Man city had Kolo Toure on a huge wage for doing very little apart from putting on weight but even he got bored enough to take a pay cut and move to Liverpool in the hope of playing regular football. (Ok, the pay cut part is a punt)
It is a thankless task being a forth choice CB and even more so at Arsenal where the player is not getting a man city pay cheque and to make things worse he is constantly moaned about by the fans for not being good enough.
This is why I have always had a great deal of sympathy for our forth choice CB’s and defended them when ever I could. Take Squillaci, it was not his fault that his job was to simply be an insurance policy against disaster; that’s to say if illness befell the three other CB’s in front of him.
The point of this post is that I think the club may have changed its policy; they still know that we need the depth, hence Mertasacker, Koscielny and Vermaelen; but, now instead of having another in the reserves I think that AW views Djourou as the fourth. It’s the reason why he was never sold and there have been plenty of opportunities to do so.
It makes a lot of sense, far better to have a fourth choice playing week in and week out, keeping his match fitness than languishing in the reserves. The loan deal probably has a clause that says we can have him back in case of disaster.
Makes sense to me, why would someone like Williams of Swansea want to give up the opportunity to play first team football again; in fact, why would anyone half decent want to?
Written by LB