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Arsenal Team Review Part 2: The Defense

A glance at the club's defense ahead of the all important must-win season


This is part 2 of the four-article series analyzing Arsenal’s team position by position (Goalkeeper, Defense, Midfield, and Attack) ahead of the summer transfer window. Part 1 was about Arsenal team review: The goalkeepers.

Arsenal facts from the 2016/17 season:
Final position on the PL table: 5th (2nd in 2015/16)
Total points: 75 (71 points in 2015/16)
UEFA competition next season: Europa League (only team among top 6 to not play in the CL)
FA Cup: Champions (13th title – most successful team in history)
League Cup: Quarter-finals (lost 0-2 to Southampton)
Champions League: Round of 16 (lost 2-10 on aggregate to Bayern Munich)
Clean Sheets: 20 (24 in 2015/16)
Goals conceded: 59 (65 in 2015/16)

Though Arsenal conceded fewer goals in the 2016/17 season as compared to the previous season, the number of clean sheets have reduced by a significant margin. After managing to avoid a yearly November slide the Gunners somehow managed to screw it up around in mid-December when center back Shkodran Mustafi was out with a Hamstring injury. The German was also out with thigh problems towards the fag end of the season eventually missing the FA Cup final.

Mustafi came to the Emirates from Spanish club Valencia for a fee reportedly around £35m. The 25-year old proved to be one of the best signings in the Premier League with his aerial prowess, physical domination, and brilliant instincts. He alongside stand-in captain Laurent Koscielny went on to form one of the best defensive pairs in the world. Koscielny at 31 rediscovered himself this season and went on smoothly about his inch-perfect tackles.

The loss to Watford FC in late January started another slide and from there the Gunners lost a number of games in PL & CL including the 2-10 aggregate defeat to Bayern in CL. Henceforth the North London club had a pretty bad time with the 4-2-3-1 formation leaking lots of goals due to lethargic play during counter attacks. That is when the new 3-4-3 formation came into play. Club manager Arsene Wenger

That is when the new 3-4-3 formation came into play. Club manager Arsene Wenger decided to persist with the 3-4-3 formation until the end of the season. The 3-4-3 formation guided the Gunners to 9 wins out of 10 matches including the FA Cup semi-final and final with the only loss coming against North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur at the White Hart Lane.

The other centre-backs in the side are Rob Holding, Gabriel Paulista, Per Mertesacker and Calum Chambers who returns from a loan at Middlesbrough FC. Per Mertesacker has already stated that he won’t be able to play full seasons hereafter and he would like to see out the current one-year contract at the club and wish to take up any other role (preferably administrative) at the club.

Meanwhile, Gabriel and Holding have shown signs of improvement this season. But with only one spot remaining in the back 3 apart from Kostafi, Holding might get the nod over Gabriel after some really impressive performances including the one against Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

At 21, Holding will be the one for the future and may be a possible leader of the team. Hence playing regularly at the top level will help him develop into a possible John Terry kind of player maybe. So with that said Chambers might be sent on loan one more season to a fellow PL club to gain more exposure. In the future who knows maybe Holding and Chambers can make our very own Terry and Cahill. Thus Gabriel, Mertesacker and at times Nacho Monreal can fill in when any of the three mainstays are injured or suspended.

With Arsenal officially securing the services of 23-year old Bosnian left-back Sead Kolasinac on a free transfer from German club Schalke 04 the left wing back position looks convincing now. Although it is unfair to compare the Bundesliga and PL as the latter is much more demanding Kolasinac has been going all guns blazing physically and technically dominating opponents missing only 4 games out through injury in the last 2 seasons in spite of playing in the Europa League both seasons. He is fast and can put in perfect crosses (AFC is in the bottom half when it comes to crosses delivered into the box) thereby consolidating his position in the playing XI.

Hence 31-year old Spaniard Monreal might have to alternate between the center back and full back roles for the upcoming season. On the other hand with the arrival of Kolasinac, it might be the end of Kieran Gibbs at the club. The 27-year old English left-back might be sold alongside a number of players this summer to free up wages in order to offer Sanchez and Ozil improved contracts.

Now when we take into account the right backs in the side only Hector Bellerin looks to have confirmed his spot in the Gunners starting line-up. Although the 22-year old Spanish full-back looked rusty here and there in the recently concluded season he was one of the breakthrough players of the Premier League in the previous season. Hence he will only get better with experience at the top level like Holding. And moreover, the club would definitely need his pace and dribbling prowess on the right wing.

The other right backs available are Mathieu Debuchy and Carl Jenkinson both of whom have looked far from convincing of late. The 31-year old Debuchy only played 16 minutes of first team football this term and was marred by a Hamstring injury which ruined more than half of his season. Hence the Frenchman looks set to join Gibbs in the clear deadwood list this transfer window. Meanwhile Jenkinson at 25 could still offer the team a lot of things if guided in the right way and moreover, he is a homegrown talent. Hence he might spend another season at the Emirates as a backup.

With an important season ahead Wenger must be itching to prove himself in the upcoming season as anything short of a Premier League triumph will infuriate Gooners around the world. Let’s hope for the best. COYG!!!

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