Arsene inherited the George Graham inspired defensive set up. Dixon, Winterburn, Bould, Adams and Keown had been drilled to perfection, or as near as is possible to get with human beings. With that lot to choose from he could concentrate on his mid-field and attack safe in the knowledge that the backdoor was secure.
Since the demise of those great players, I can recall Wenger signing only one top, top class central defender, Sol Campbell. When it comes to full-backs, Lauren, Cole and Sagna stand out from the otherwise general mediocrity. Yet two of those were allowed to leave with no real efforts made to retain them. With all due respect to Gibbs, his injury problems alone preclude him being considered an adequate replacement for Cole and why Sagna was allowed to leave is beyond my comprehension. Too old at thirty? Utter rubbish!
When we look at recent defensive recruits a list of poor quality signings is revealed, Jenkinson, Santos, Monreal in the full-back category, while at centre-back Mertesacker is limited by a lack of pace, Vermaelen came promised much, got injured, lost confidence and his place, went to Barcelona, where incidentally he has not yet started a game, and Koscielny who has been hampered by the need to cover for Merts immobility and is himself now a long term injury worry. Others include players such as Senderos, Upson, Stepanov etc.
The paucity of quality centre backs over a period of time is revealed by the fact that Wenger has played Song, Diaby and now Monreal in the position, a situation that should not be tolerated in a “top four side”.
All of the above leads me to the conclusion that Arsene just does not “get” defending. I don’t think he “values” defenders. Full-backs have to be flying wingers, centre-backs have to be playmakers and strikers, when in fact the primary function is to defend, defend, defend.
If you are going to buy an Ozil, and play him on the wing, you need a sound defender behind him not someone who is going to bomb forward at every opportunity. If you are going to allow your mid-fielders to attack as a unit you need pacy defenders to stay back as cover. For an instance, for United’s second goal on Saturday, at the moment we lost possession all ten, yes all ten outfield players were in the Manchester half of the pitch, for all the good they were as defenders they may as well have been in a Manchester nightclub.
There were two other significant signings in the summer, Debuchy, a recognised premiership standard right-back, and Chambers a young man learning his trade. Unfortunately just as we were starting to see the quality of Debuchy he got injured, whilst Chambers had a baptism of fire, playing either at right-back or centre-back in almost every game of the season so far. I describe Chambers as “a young man learning his trade”, but what trade is that? A right-back? A centre-back? A wing back? I don’t know and I suspect that Wenger is equally in the dark, whilst poor Callum Chambers must be entirely bewildered.
The January transfer window is approaching, for once we are not crying out for a striker, indeed we may have too many, Podolski, Campbell and Sanogo just don’t get a look in, Welbeck seems to be a fixture, Giroud is back from injury, Walcott is nearing a return and then there is the magnificent Sanchez. We also have ample numbers in mid-field, so let’s bolster the defence, let’s buy a top quality centre-back and, if possible, a right-back, but most of all let’s get the defenders to understand that their duty is first and foremost to defend, defend, defend.
Written by Norfolk Gooner