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July 2021

Arsenal’s defenders. Who moves up, who moves out, who we buy.

By Tony Attwood

Yesterday we had a nice little debate about Arsenal’s forward line and midfield.  Leaving aside my decision to include a player no longer with Arsenal (bloody typical that they should transfer someone just when I wanted to write about him), I thought the issues raised were interesting.

So what about the defence?

Full Backs

  • Gibbs
  • Sagna
  • Jenkinson
  • Coquelin
  • Santos
  • Angha ??? perhaps one season too early
  • Hajrovic ??? ditto

The obvious man to step up is Coquelin – giving us two players on the left and three on the right with two possible youngsters moving up.

Central defence

  • Mertersacker
  • Miquel
  • Vermaelen
  • Koscielny
  • Squillaci ??? leaving
  • Djourou ??? leaving
  • Song – stand by in case needed
  • Bartley – was at Rangers all last season

I am useless at seeing whether a player is developing well or not from the reserves, so the fact that I thought Miquel was looking good last season is neither here nor there.  The key point was the sheer brilliance of Koscielny – another “clearly not good enough” player (eh Ian?)

So, if Miquel is ready, we have four players, even with Squillaci and Djourou going – plus Song as a stand by.  As for Bartley, I watched him play for Rangers, but in the games I saw Rangers were chasing the game, and they all had a tough time of it.  Whether he is up to Premier League standard I have my doubts.   But as ever, what do I know?


The wonderful thing about the AAA is their terrific ability to jump from one crisis to another, leaving behind one “obvious disaster” when it turns out that maybe they knew sweet FA on the subject.  Thus it was with goalkeepers – we so desperately urgently needed to buy one, until it turned out we had a terrific keeper, who can only get better year on year.

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It is what happens in the reserve sections that is an issue.

  • Szczesny – obvious number 1
  • Fabianski – only got a couple of cup games last year
  • Mannone – played 23 games at Hull last season
  • Martinez – the up coming man

I would suspect one of Fabianski and Mannone will move on with Martinez coming up to number three.  He has already sat on the bench for the full Argentine squad, despite still being only 5 weeks old (actually my data might be slightly wrong there).

One thing is certain, we don’t need a keeper.  (Which given that I said it, probably means that we do).

So what do we make of this?

The left and right backs took a hammering on the injury front last season – but you can’t really have six players with only two playing each week.  The back up players are young and willing to be bit part players, with Santos having a unique ability to fool opposition and commentators alike by transforming himself from a defender to an attacking midfielder in a trice.

In the centre I think we will rotate a bit depending on whom we are playing, but much depends on whether Miquel really is ready.  I think he is, but as I said, what do I know.

On this basis we are not buying anyone.  But don’t quote me on it.


Van Persie and Podolski at the Euros

It looks like we’ve bought Olivier Giroud

Harry Redknapp’s gone: but what really happened?

Leslie Knighton: Arsenal’s least successful manager – the story.

Untold Ref Review: Sunderland 0 Man U 1 (sorry link previously faulty, now corrected)

31 comments to Arsenal’s defenders. Who moves up, who moves out, who we buy.

  • Sid


    Oh but we do need a keeper, as Fabianski will be leaving (on loan maybe, but definitely going) along with Mannone, meaning we only have the untried martinez. An older experienced keeper, like Jussi (who has Jussi gone to West Ham) would have been perfect IMO. Craig Gordon is available on a free too.

    Fullbacks; You left out Nico Yennaris who looks quality, the other kids you mention are no where near the level required yet. WE will have Coquelin and Jenkison to cover Sagna’s absence at the start of the season and I expect the frenchman to then be played in his best position; DM.

    Squillaci is off, thats a certainty, while Djourou is staying put meaning the 2 younger defenders; Miquel and Bartley will be loaned out, hopefully to PL teams. I think bartley could end up being a bit of a player while Miquel has impressed me loads.

  • Alan

    Not only did you leave out Yennaris, a quality up and coming right back, you also forgot about Pedro Botelho. He was on loan at Levante last season and should he get a work permit should provide another option at left back. However, rumours are that Levante are interested in signing him permanently this summer and could table a bid.

  • Legolas

    we don’t need defenders and i hope Djourou stay he is our 4th CB and he isn’t that bad i believe he will be better next season . we only need M’villa and that’s it and keep RVP pleaseee

  • Jayjay

    We don’t nid to buy anyone???

    Thank God u said u shouldn’t b quoted…

  • GaryH

    I believe we should sell Fabianski and Mannone. We can pick up Gordon who would count as homegrown, add experience and be willing to be no.2 behind Szczesny. Martinez is a promising keeper who can continue as reserve/no3 keeper.

    I would sign Vertonghen and sell Djourou & Squillaci. Miquel and Bartley can provide extra cover but i would prefer them to gain experience on loan. Song at a push can play centerback and Coquelin can cover both fullback positions.

    GK Szczesny Gordon Martinez
    LB Gibbs Santos
    LC Vermaelen Vertonghen Miquel
    RC Koscielny Mertesacker Bartley
    RB Sagna Jenkinson

  • Arvind

    Yeah no one needed in defense Tony. We’re perfect as it is unless we sell someone. And I honestly doubt we will sell anyone. If Djourou asks to move then yeah..maybe…but I hope he doesn’t. He’s a very good squad player and as good as you get for a 3rd/4th choice defender.

  • DarthWenger

    Agreed. No players needed unless Fabianski and Mannone leave.

  • Lanz

    OOT. But how do you view PFA chairman, Gordon Taylor’s remark about Van Persie’s latest award:
    “He’s very much in demand and Arsenal fans will be worrying whether Arsenal can get him to stay or whether he will move on to the likes of Manchester City”?

  • Damien Luu

    @Arvind: Exactly. It’s funny that some people want us to buy/have four top CB like TV or Kos. No team in the world have that (I mean, do you see how Spain’s defence doing without Puyol?). JD is a good defender and I believe he loves the club, so I hope we will stick with him.

    About GKs, Fab and Man are not too bad. Of course they did make mistakes but who didn’t? Maybe AW will let one of them go to make room for Martinez going up and keep the other as our no.2.

  • Damien Luu

    And we have THREE top CBs! Few teams in the world have that!

  • Wooby

    @Lanz, slow news day and Gordon Taylor lobbing something to help the media along – probably to buy goodwill to gain sympathetic positions to players’ plight later on in the season.

    One would also expect a trade union such as the PFA to prefer player transfers for large sums followed by astronomical wages. A rising tide brings everyone higher.

  • Pedro Botelho is a mystery to me. He has been on loan for longer than I can recall any player being out on loan – since 2007 in fact. I am not sure what happened at Rayo – maybe someone can tell me – but something seemed to go wrong and I thought that was it, but yes, I think it has come back together at Levante.

    That is a 1st division club in Spain, so the 14 games played obviously count. And surely he must have a Spanish nationality by now, so can play for us.

    Maybe this is the moment. I confess having said he would come and play for the past 2 years I just thought he was playing out time in Spain, and didn’t really consider him.

  • Nico Yennaris. I left him out because of what happened this past season. True he has played 7 times for England’s under 19, but when he went on loan to Notts County he only got 2 games since he went there in March.

    I know he played for us against Man U as a sub, but is he really in contention? (That’s not meant to be sarcastic – I want to know.) It is the fact that Notts C didn’t use him that makes me think he’s not.

  • Matt Clarke

    I think that defence should be okay next season.

    Steve Bould’s come in as assistant to AW and will likely have a positive impact. He already knows Gibbs and Szczesny well and (I am ignorant here of the resevres) he probably knows a few of those coming through too.

    The move (in terms of buying defenders) recently has been more towards Adams/Bould-type defenders and so I can it all working well.

    The only thing that worries me still about our defence, however, is set-plays. Does anyone care to comment on how they see us improving in that area of the game?

  • bjtgooner

    Re defenders: –

    I agree with the earlier comments – we have an excellent pool of defenders and unless one of the core players departs I can’t see us buying anyone. I can see Squillaci leaving and the guy would obviously be happier with first team football elsewhere. I would imagine Miguel will step up to replace him and also play in some of the cup matches. I am not sure about Bartley, but lets hope he develops into a top player, there is still time.

    Both Coquelin and Yennaris look like very good prospects, but lets not forget Jenkinson, I think he will also develop very well, perhaps more slowly than the effervescent Coquelin, but he could become a great player.

    Unless we are again raveged by injuries I think the defense will be fine next season, the Steve Bould influence and a more consistent support from midfield should tighten the defense considerably.

  • Matt Clarke

    what a goal by Wlacott!

  • Matt Clarke

    (I may have a case of Look at me Look at me so please shoot me if necessary, but)

    Walcott (providing) again – thay finally gave him the ball!

  • Scott

    Tony,based on the Utd game,Yennaris is a star in the making.
    He was sensational that day,and totally against all odds.
    Personally,I don’t think we need to buy defenders.
    We need to fix our defence further up the pitch.
    M’Villa,or a similar player,really would solve most of our defensive problems,I believe.
    Look at when Arteta played……we were simply a much better side.
    Why…he recognised the pressure our back 4 were under,and how exposed they we’re,so played deeper.
    M’Illa is a defensive midfielder in the true sense of the word(s).
    Get him,a lot of our problems will disappear.

  • Shard

    I agree that we don’t need to buy a defender. As long as Djourou doesn’t ask for a move. (The only reason I fear he might is because his national team coach told him he needs to play more) Maybe even if he moved, Miquel will be deemed ready. However, I think he’ll stay, and Miquel will get a few cup games, and then be sent out on loan to a PL or a championship club. Bartley, I’m not convinced will make it at Arsenal. He’s a good player, but is he good enough? We’ll see.

    We’re set at Fullback, although Sagna’s injury means Jenkinson needs to be ready and step up. He was pretty bad in the last match of last season. Yennaris did well, though his loan didn’t go so well. I would expect him to get a few CarlingCup games, and maybe some FA Cup games too.

    On Goalkeepers, I think both Fabianski and Mannone are looking to move. Fabianski’s injury complicates matters though. If he’s willing to stay, he’s more than a capable backup. If not, Martinez as 2nd choice wouldn’t do. We need an experienced backup. Craig Gordon has been suggested, and wouldn’t be the worst choice in the world. I seem to remember rumours of us being interested in him before he moved to Sunderland. Although, GaryH..Are you sure Gordon counts as HomeGrown? Wasn’t he in some Scottish club earlier? As far as I know the HG rules apply to English and Welsh clubs. Not Scottish.. So I’m not sure if Gordon will be a HG player.

  • Heci

    As far as I know Manone and Fabianski will be sold (not loaned) this summer. Martinez is very good, will be a top keeper in 3-4 years (or a top young keeper at least). It would be nice to get a player like Gordon (albeit his injury past) but I don’t think he would like to come in and sit on the bench, waiting for SZCZ to get a red card (cause obviously injuries won’t stop us playing him). Don’t know really how we could get a good back-up keeper of any kind.

  • Can anyone tell me where the information is coming from on two keepers both being sold at once? Is this just media speculation, or is it more than that?

  • Jacobite Gunner

    Off topic alert.

    Has everybody noticed that the spurs Vertonghen transfer has suddenly gone very quiet…

    …we can nly wonder why.

    On Bartley, no he is not not ready for a squad place at arsenal because the standard of SPL is very poor (i know because being scottish and all I reluctantly watch it). He needs a season long to a lowly prem team ie, evans didso at sunderland and caulker didso at swansea this season.

  • Shard

    Both have been quoted in the media saying they want to be playing regularly, and as they are unlikely to find that at Arsenal, they might look to move. Fabianski apparently repeated that quote yesterday.

  • Shard – many thanks. I am obviously dozing off in my old age and missing the key stories. Although, there isn’t a goalkeeper that doesn’t think he should be playing regularly.

  • But just to round this off, isn’t it interesting that if you look at all the stories about transfer rumours every day, 90% of the Arsenal stories are about us signing midfielders and forwards. How many midfield players do we need?

  • TheSKAGooner

    Hey Tony –

    Should we consider Coguelin as an actual fullback? I think he’s more like Song in that he can be an emergency fill in, but not counted on with any regularity for that spot.

    On the other hand, if we sign M’vila (no idea if that will actually happen), then perhaps Coq will be given more of a look on the right side of the defense as an understudy to Sagna.

  • Heci

    Tony, the more midfielders- the merrier. 😉
    Most of the media stuff is pure bull crap anyway. Somebody should make a statistic of all the wrong transfer stories each transfer window, even though that wouldn’t stop them really.

    And to clarify, I was once a fan of Fabianski and even Mannone. I think they are not as bad as some of us think really, but both have been on the record to want to leave and the reason why I think Wenger will let them go is that:
    a) They are not on long term contracts so we might as well make some money off them now;
    b) I believe the manager has absolutely no confidence in them being EVEN backup players (not that I have), most notable example is the fact that SZCZ played quite a lot of time injured during the past few months.

    It would be nice to have a good backup keeper that can challenge SZCZ and keep him on his toes but I don’t see how we can pursuade someone. Even Vorm of Swansea rejected us because he knew he wasn’t getting the Number 1 shirt here. I expect us to sign a keeper but have heard no rumour as of yet (except for the Vorm stuff).

    Also sorry fo the long post but here’s my two cents about the other topics:

    – Santos and Jenkinson are for me good enough back up, I don’t think we would be discussing this if it wasn’t for the unfortunate injuries they sustained (at the most inappropriate time too).
    – M’vila and Giroud will be our players, I expect them to sign soon after the Euro tournament. And they are both very fine players.
    – Squillaci will leave on a free (at least we’ll get his wages off), Djourou I think will reluctantly go as well. I would be happy with Bartley being 4th choice behind Verm, Kos, Mertesacker even though his talent is still a bit raw.
    – Hajrovic and Angha are central defenders I think, even though I know Hajrovic was playing mainly as RB for the reserves. I don’t think they have the characteristics of being wing backs. That being said- I thought the same about Miquel but he did rather good as a Left fullback last season so I might be wrong.
    – I hope that M’vila and Giroud don’t end up as replacements for Song & RvP in the longer term. I really think they are very good players. Think of Giroud as a Chamakh type who can actually shoot and link-up with other players around him. And as for M’vila, keep an eye for his passing skills! This combined with his ball winning skills can make Song sweat for his starting place, I think.

  • jlubegas

    Do you think SONG can be a standby weapon? NO! He is Invisible and unsung hero. He has to start.

  • ash

    i think we need 2 take jenkinson out on loan, to the premier league wiv bartley. But we need a cover 4 right back not only relying on coquelin. in midfield we either need a creative player or a DM, if we buy mvilla wislhere should get playmaker role. We should use a rotation system to keep the midfield and attack injury free

  • DaVinci

    AW’s philosophy for strikers has been to buy a winger or a midfielder and slowly work them into attacking roles (Henry and RvP). The case of buying an all-time striker didn’t prove to be a wise choice (Chamakh). The same philosophy doesn’t seem to apply for defenders. AW is more avid is getting a near-ready product and work on polishing and final touches. It did work with Kos and TV5, Sagna and Santos too. But something went wrong with the finished product in the name of Scuillaci.

    Given the assists made by Song, and his limited pace, AW may opt to bring in a pacy midfielder that can change the game when Sing has to drop back and cushion the defenders. Wilshire is of this grade when fit. So M’Villa might just get into the team.

    Looking at the injuries to the back line last season, a recurrent pattern seemed to disturb the left back position and AW had to make do with make-shift replacements. AW might has someone on his mind that can be capable of filling in such shortfalls, if and when they occur. CBs worked their best in their roles but also as backups in other positions. I see this department being left intact, and allowing a game or two for the young and upcoming.

    This is the season where Arsenal might also start rebuilding on the GK side. Fabianski is still being rated by AW but might leave. Mannone too might elect to join Fab for a greener pasture. Martinez might step up, but maybe (just maybe) AW might shop for a midpoint GK to fill the void in between SZCZ and Martinez, especially if such a person is available on the cheap.