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!