It’s not a new observation but Arsenal have made a habit of purchasing defenders and being unable to find a combination that makes them watertight at the back. Since the days of the invincible’s and as the old guard left, their replacements were simply not of the same caliber. Subsequently, Arsenal’s ability to compete at the top level was drastically reduced.
Yet, Arsenal used to boast a strong backline that went hand in hand with the clubs resurgence under George Graham, and Arsene Wenger inherited a robust outfit that allowed him to develop the teams attacking philosophy.
The days that Arsenal could trust in the likes of Toure, Lauren, Campbell, Cole, Adams, Keown, Dixon and Winterburn seem like a distant memory. Although Monreal and Bellerin have their moments, they can’t be compared to those players that achieved so much and served the club with such distinction.
Wenger tried to buy cheap with the clubs financial restrictions but it was a futile exercise because he could not mould them or shape them into the personnel he required.
He had the Midas touch to a degree and changed the player’s positions for the benefit of the team.
Ashley Cole was a prime example of this. He was considered as a striker but Wenger converted him into a wing back. It was a master stroke which was rarely repeated to the same effect. Francis Coquelin was asked by Wenger to play the holding role and apart from one good spell, he fell short of the level expected.
There have been a series of purchases that haven’t gone according to plan, either because of inexperience or a lack of quality. Holding, Chambers and Jenkinson have been unable to secure a starting place. Mustafi has been inconsistent, Mertesacker was probably past his best and Debuchy managed to fall out with his boss for reasons unknown.
That leaves Laurent Koscielny, who has become something of a mystery. His form which was once dependable has deserted him and his confidence appears to have disappeared.
One suspects that he played whilst hampered with recurring niggles because Arsenal had no other options but there has been a noticeable dip in form before his devastating Achilles injury.
It’s too early to asses Sokratis, Kolasinac and Lichtsteiner because of limited opportunities. This is especially true in the case of Sead Kolasinac, who hit the ground running in his early Arsenal career, only to find himself benched by Wenger.
There will be further changes come the transfer window and I’d expect at least three, possibly four outgoings and two solid acquisitions before things start to improve.
Emery is no slouch and he will build a robust, competitive defence, but it is a work in progress that will take a few seasons.
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