Just How Many Defenders Do We Need?

I was waiting for the announcement of the Koscielny signing before writing this piece. But given our recent trend I’m not sure how long this is going to take so it’s better to discuss this topic with the assumption that we will be signing Koscielny.

Gallas, Campbell, Silvestre and Senderos are all on their way out. Campbell might stay but let’s ignore that possibility for the time being.

There is no way we are going to sign 4 defenders. If results don’t go our way next season, I’m sure many will point to these departures and say we didn’t replace the players who left. I’m trying to think just how many we need without the benefit of hindsight!

At the beginning of last season we had 6 Centre Backs, at least in theory. At the end, we ran out of central defenders. So can we justify having less than 6 this time around!?

I think it’s important to look at the details to arrive at an answer. Out of the six we had at the start of last season, Senderos just played two Carling Cup games. We can easily replace that by playing Bartley or Nordtveit. So in my book we don’t need to replace him.

Djourou was one of the six but he was injured for the whole season. This has double impact on this analysis. Firstly, his contribution last season was zilch, so you could say we only had 5 CB’s last season. Secondly, and as an extension, he is like a new player this season and certainly better than Silvestre!

That brings us down to Gallas and Campbell, two players who made a big contribution last season. Assuming Koscielny signs one of the two will be replaced (depending on whether the newcomer is a starter or first choice replacement). We are still one short.

From what I’ve read online most fans seem to agree that we need at least one more central defender. I’m not sure it will be that easy to get a top quality new guy who will be happy to be on the bench. It won’t be easy to rotate the players around either because Koscielny, Djourou and whoever else we sign will all need time to adapt. If we rotate them regularly we might end up without having a proper partnership and all might lose confidence. It does make Wenger’s job a little difficult.

Looking at our rivals, we can see that Chelsea have Terry, Carvalho, Alex, and Ivanovic as the recognized, top quality Centre Backs. United have Ferdinand, Vidic, Evans, and Brown. They also have Neville, O’Shea, and others who can fill in and they’ve signed Smalling.

The important thing to note here is that both teams have three out and out central defenders and others who are competent in at least one other defensive position. I think this is where Arsenal suffer as we have plenty of quality in our Full Backs but none of them can really do a job in central defence. Silvestre was the best we had in that sense so I don’t really need to explain this point!

The new 25 player limit makes this even more important as we cannot have too many players who specialize in one role. If Gallas, Campbell and Silvestre leave we can still sign 6 players for the squad of 25. So we are not really stretched but it’s not a good idea to flirt around the borderline as we have some youngsters who will take up those spots next year and there is always a possibility we might need a signing or two in January (depending on injuries)

I think once we get a new keeper, one of the present ones will either leave or go out on loan thereby not affecting he squad quota. So I’ll leave that part out of the discussion. Similarly, if Cesc decides to go we will have to get a top quality replacement but in terms of squad quota it won’t make a difference.

Of course, Cesc and Campbell are two of our eight home grown players. If we get replacements that are not English, it will automatically force us into promoting a couple of U-21 home grown players into the squad of 25 just to fulfil the quota of eight. In effect, instead of having 7 open places we will have 3 places (two replacements + two promotions).

The permutations are quite complex with too many “ifs” involved. In case you’re not clear on the rules and the composition of our squad check out this article. Just add Chamakh to that list as I wrote that piece before we signed him.

In all, I think we can comfortably sign two new players. That will leave us with enough room for next year when the youngsters need a spot or two and for an emergency January signing, if needed.

Instead of signing another player who plays purely as a central defender I think we need someone who can deputize in defensive midfield and/or at left back. We already have Sagna, Eboue and Djourou for the right back spot so I don’t see sense in signing another one for that.

At left back we have Gibbs as an able deputy but I don’t count Traore as a good back up. As both these youngsters are U-21 we can have them both without really worrying about squad places. But from a football point of view it will certainly be good to have someone who can do a good job.

It’s true we have Vermaelen who can play left back as well but has been so good in central defence that it doesn’t make sense to move him for any reason. Also, he is the only central defender we have with some decent experience of playing in the big games.

This is the reason I’m not sure someone like Bougherra will be useful. I’d say the same goes for Subotic or Kjaer. All of them could have been candidates instead of Koscielny but not in addition to the French/Polish defender.

As has been mentioned before by a regular contributor Phil, Jan Vertonghen of Ajax seems like a good choice as he can play central defence, left back and defensive midfield positions. If not Vertonghen then a player with similar attributes, style and talent. Kjaer is two-footed, isn’t he? But does he play Left Back or DM?

I can’t see us signing a central defender and a defensive midfielder. Some will argue that it’s absolutely necessary that we do but I’m not sure Arsene will make so many changes to the starting eleven. Even with the present scenario an additional defender will mean we will have a 10 Mil player on the bench. I’m not saying it’s wrong but it would be much better to have someone who can take a starting role in defensive midfield alongside Song.

In conclusion, we can certainly sign another central defender and a DM. We have the money and squad spaces for that. I just feel we need one player with real quality who can do both jobs. We need another Song. If only finding one was as easy as saying it!

28 Responses to Just How Many Defenders Do We Need?

  1. arseenal-as says:

    Laurent Koscielny’s official Arsenal player to see the web page lorient http://www.fclweb.fr/

    • cescsational11 says:

      cnt translate that site mate. where does it say he is officially a arsenal player???? cheers pal

  2. 7masters says:

    Manuel Neuer That the man Wenger should sign plus Per Mertesacker from Werder Bremen then Felipo Melo. Those three plus Dutch player Ibrahim Affley who is available for a bargain. Plus Lorient Defender cannot spell his name lool.

    Manuel Neuer, Wojciech Szczesny, Vita Manone. Fabianski should go on Loan. Aluminia should hit the high road.

    Sagna, Clichy, JD, TV,Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker,Rafik Halliche.


    Cesc or Rafik Halliche, Felipo Melo (Forget Mistakes)
    Rosicky, Walcott, Eboue, Ibrahim Affley,Arshavin,Song,Diaby, Nasri,JW,Denilson.

    Chamakh, RVP, CV, NB,Eduardo,Remy,Hunterlaar.

    • desigunner says:

      Afellay is a very interesting prospect but he is already 24, so I’m not sure how soon he will develop further. And he is certainly not the finished article. Same goes for Elia.

      If we get a winger or another attacking player, I’d prefer someone who can play in the big games. Not sure Arsene is looking for such a deal though.

  3. Wilsheres dad says:

    My guess is that it’ll be a regular central pairing of Verminator & Koscielny with Djourou,(& possibly Campbell) Bartley & Nordtveit as cover.

    • desigunner says:

      Djourou, Bartley and Nordveit will leave us really light on back up as we’ve never seen Djourou play consistently for a long period. Nor have we seen him stay injury free for a whole season.

      The kids can’t really step in for the big games and that will leave us with Song, which really makes the midfield tough unless we have another guy who can step in for Song.

      It will be much better if Campbell stays around. Not only in terms of balance but also for his experience and attitude.

  4. Scotland Steve says:

    You know, when comparing our depth at CB with the other contenders, it’s possible to do it in reverse (as you did with United — counting someone like O’Shea.)

    Song is one of the best CBs at the club. Obviously, that’s not where he’ll play on a day-to-day basis, but my point is that if it came to a crisis — which it usually does at every club eventually — Song can easily slot into that CB role.

    So there’s another option available. Instead of looking for a backup CB who can play another position, Wenger alternatively could find a veteran DM who could step in if Song had to play a stretch of games in the back.

    To that point, isn’t Flamini available?

    Arsene’s broken his “never come back” rule with Sol, so why not do it again? Flamini can play any number of positions, and do so with gusto and spirit.

    It doesn’t hurt that he’s a great buddy of Cesc’s, either (not that I think the skipper is leaving, but why not give him all the help possible?)

    I don’t think this CB issue will hurt us as it has in the past — as long as Vermaelen gets a good, solid partner and most important, we sign a keeper who commands the area and inspires confidence around him.

    Did you ever think you’d long for the Jens Era?


    • desigunner says:

      Yes Song can certainly play CB. But I feel he is much more important in the middle and it’s not fair to change his position that often.

      Song at CB should be a worst case scenario and not something we should think of while planning for the season.

      I’m not convinced Flamini is the same player he was in the early part of the 07-08 season. Otherwise he would have been a good candidate. I’m not sure he’d want to come back either, kind of egg on face for him.

      If Kosceilny – Vermaelen can stay fit for majority of the season then we are well placed, but we must plan for the worst case. Surely we’ve learnt that from the last two seasons.

      Arsene might get one now and maybe one more in Jan. That’s another possibility.

  5. Armourist says:

    Scotsteve … excellent idea plus flamini would fit in with the quota rule.

    Jens…. now thats how you keep goal.

  6. keith says:

    If Cesc goes do you realy think we wuld replace him with a quality signing?
    Did we replace Vierra,Henry,Pires,Abedayor,Flamini,Seaman,?
    No here lies the answer we will never win anything again with Wenger time for him to go before he drags us back into the dark ages

    • Mack Daniel says:

      I’m sorry to say that I agree with you 100%.

    • MSL says:

      I think you forgot that we started to build the new stadium which is why we couldn’t afford to sign anyone. Wenger stayed here for a couple of reasons, a) he could build a new era for a big club and b) he could do a few experiments here because of the financial restraint. It is not our club’s policy to spend beyond the means and following it stringently has now left us in a very healthy situation. Wenger must be built a temple around the new stadium somewhere.

  7. Wilsheres dad says:

    Scotland Steve…good point re Song which strengthens my belief that we won’t be signing any more CD’s.

  8. Wilsheres dad says:

    Keith, If Joe Cole comes to the Emirates on £100+K per week (having said he wants regular first team football where ever he signs)then expect Cesc to go.
    Back-up will be Nasri, Ramsey & Wilshere.

  9. Talia says:

    I know … let’s hang on to Silvestre.

    And don’t tell me it’s not the kind of thing AW wouldn’t do.

  10. ak47 says:

    good article geeza. uve made a very good point i think. vertonghen would fit in nice and get enuf playing time due to injuries and stuff. plus he already knows vermz. how much would verty go for? vermz verty kos djour cambell song clichy sagna eboue gibbs would be more than enuf. ten for 5 places with three cbs able to play in 2 positions and one in 3. sounds good to me. all with pace bar song an camz. not saying thier slow. plus wit camz as the teacher for all. if he stays. i reckon he will tho. he aint broke an celtic aint offering champz leeeeeeg. i reckon he’s stringing em along. wat footballer doesnt like the feeling of being wanted. i remember vaguely an interview with the celt coach looking unconvinced that camz is going anywhere. i cud be wrong tho. and ill be very disappointed if he does leave. i think flamini wouldnt be as affective as verty cos hes not as flexible. id prefer to only play song as cb in a total emergency. ie: everybody else is injured at the same time. hes a ok cb but a much much better dm. plus from wat ive seen of djourou he looks just as good on the ball as song and could play dm depending on his work rate.

    sagna djour vermz clichy
    eboue kos verty verty
    song camz gibbs

    song verty
    djour kos

    average hight 6ft, pace, flexibility. what more do u we need indeed? …..
    well if you ask me. hazard, a good keeper, and gourcuff. and id be on cloud nine if u need me. cant wait to see chamack, hes gonna be ade mach 3 with more fight, a better attitude and more goals.

    • desigunner says:

      I’m not sure about the price for Vertonghen but it should be in the same ball park as Vermaelen I guess. Maybe a bit more as Ajax have Champions League this season.











    Me THinks the question you should be asking is how many strikers do we need.

    RVP, EDDY, BENDY, SHARKMAN for a team that plays only one striker, we would have many disgruntled strikers.

  12. Phil23 says:

    Mentioned in the blog! Gotta love it. I agree with Desi, Vertonghen is all we need. (I’m also assuming we’ve signed Schwarzer) This is our year! The odds on Fabregas are looking bad though. 1/20 he goes to Barcelona. Ie, bet $20 make $1!

    • desigunner says:

      Good time to make some money on the reverse bet! I don’t think he will go this season unless he really creates a scene and breaks all bonds.

      You deserve credit as you were the first to mention him as a versatile player who can help our balance, at least the first in my knowledge.

  13. Gunter Z says:

    If we carry on with poor transfer operations, we will continue to lose and not win. We need real backup, enough of looking for versatile players, Barcelona have 5 dedicated CB’s, then Abidal with genuine experience there. At present, we have 3 including Koscielny who isn’t experienced. You cannot win anything with a thin squad, Wenger should wake up, this is not 2004 anymore, 2010 is a new challenge.

    • Santori says:

      Barca…5 dedicated CBs? They did sell one recently.

      4 seems to be a reasonable number for depth in this position.

      OTOH Barca like the bench warm. Fab take heed! 😉

  14. Samuel says:

    Gallas and Campbell made huge contributions last season ,it,s no wonder the Arsenal defence is all at sea with ball watching clowns the like of the aforementioned two plus Sivestre and Sagna, so who are these wannabe managers who repeat the same hogwash week in and week out as France with Gallas and Sagna in defence still pass the ball sideways and backwards just as they do at Arsenal ?

  15. Gooner says:

    LB, DM & CB? Juventus’ Sissoko will do very well

  16. Santori says:


    Great site!

    Here’s my own long winded opinion :

    Koscielny looks a great signing and should be the first choice central pairing with Vermaelen.

    There is every chance that Wenger will prepare him well + seems he has a great work ethic.

    However there is also a good chance he may need a little time to adjust to the PL. Being that Djourou himself is only coming back from injury and has never played extensively alongside Vermaelen, it would be sensible policy to keep Campbell for another season as an experience head (Not to mention he keeps our homegrown quota healthy as mentioned)

    Given that, IF Sol stays on, we should have 4 CB plus Song (in an emergency)

    Therefore it may be more imperative to find that back up DM for Song.

    To my mind, we can go several ways with this :

    1)A no nonsense back up:
    Advantage – he knows his stuff (positioning)
    Disadvantage – Vying for a spot with Song and offers not much going forward.

    De Jong is available but I also like the Ghanaian Annan (Did a tidy little job didn’t he in Essien’s absence?)

    2) A Box to box : Someone mentioned Flamini. I like that idea as Flamini has now been chastened by his experience in Italy + he’s only 25! We know he operates well next to Fab (who will be with us for another season at least) and he affords us the added luxury of going 4-4-2 If need be (Chamakh/RVP up top)
    Disadvantage – I think Flamini has already gone past the egg in his face. It’s more likely that the Gaffer won’t take him back.

    If not Flamini what about Stephen Ireland? He seems equally energetic and a real talent going forward.

    If you sit either of these lads next to Song in a 4-2-3-1, you get solid protection plus one of the defensive pairing offers substantial offensive ability.

    3) As you suggested a DM who can play CB or vice versa. If Sol leaves, perhaps this might be the best option. Vertonghen sounds good.

    4)For want of a better description, a Ball keeper. Given (IF Sol and all current fullbacks stay…which would be best for continuity), we are very full at the back. Adding another fully defensive player may mean long bench time for someone.

    Rather we might perhaps explore someone who has massive ball retention skills to sit alongside Diaby as a two man shield as and when Song is unavailable.

    I personally like Seseegnon @ PSG. He isn’t the biggest but it’s incredibly difficult to take the ball off of him. He can play right across midfield which particularly affords competition to Arsharvin’s alternate (Diaby) or Nasri’s (Walcott).

    Another possible (younger player) to look at is the Ghanaian Kwando Asamoah. Again, he can play across the midfield offering further options.

    5) Finally based on the 2 man covering shield in lieu of Song, what about re-rolling Rosicky? Contrary to stereotypes about his size and fragility, he has been competitive and tenacious all last season.

    Perhaps he is a little slower going forward but he can offer his experience (and more importantly) positioning to complement Diaby’s physicality.

    In which case, the next defensive signing (Assuming Sol is not needed or is not re-signing) could be a straight out and out defender. Wonder how much the Uruguayan Lugano might cost. At 29, he offers a wealth of experience (Bearing in mind Koscielny and Vermaelen are barely 25!)

    Alternatively if Clichy does get tempted to leave (I doubt it), perhaps the other Uruguayan Martin Caceres?

    Anyway as you said there are a lot of permutations. Just more fodder for the discussion.

    Cheers and respect!

  17. Santori says:


    Any discussion as to how many keepers we need to change a light bulb?

    Answer :

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