By Walter Broeckx
A lot of supporters have a difficult time in this transfer window and say that we have gone backwards and have lost a lot of players and mostly in defence and this was the point where we suffered the most last season. So let us have a look at it in detail and see who has left and what they meant for us in the last season. When I talk in this article about games played I only took the games played in the league.
So let us start by the defenders that have left us:
William Gallas was the most important defender who played 26 games in the league and he scored 3 goals for us. And yes to be fair he had maybe one of his best seasons for Arsenal. He played strongly, defended strongly and he also scored a few goals so we could be satisfied with this. The only negative point is that he got injured in February and this was somewhat the end of his season. So to replace him we need someone who can play a lot of games.
Silvestre also left us this summer and last season he played 12 games in total in the league for Arsenal. And he scored 1 goal. I think it is fair to say he was the most disliked player in Arsenal by most of the fans. His United heritage was lying as a shadow over him and he never could win the hearts of the Arsenal fans. His passing of the ball was not good enough. Defensively he was not that bad but I don’t think there are a lot fans who have thrown away their Arsenal shirt and would never support us again after it became known that he had left us. I think it will be more the contrary, most fans are relieved that he is gone.
The third one that left us is Sol Campbell who played a total of 11 games and didn’t score for us last season. I admit that he worked his socks off, battled with all what was left inside of him but was he still good enough? He was our 4th or 5th choice centre back and he did what he could and showed his great heart and determination. But he was never the Campbell we knew from the time when he played for us before this spell.
I even wrote an article on him and Silvestre in the last games of the season and pointed out that when they played together we conceded lots of goals and our passing from the back was very poor. We couldn’t bring up the ball to the midfield and therefore lost a lot of balls and couldn’t keep control of the games. We all will have him in our hearts but do we really, if we take away the sympathy we have for him, think he could be better this season? I really doubt it to be honest.
And finally we lost Senderos. He played no games for us in the league at all. So I think it is fair to say we will not miss him.
So we lost in total four centre backs who played in total 49 games in the league. An average of 12 games per player. And if we try to look at it in a fair way, only one player of those four was really a first team player. And he missed one third of the season because of injury.
The other thing we can ask ourselves if we really can say we lost Senderos in the summer? I think he was lost before that as he didn’t play one single game for us in the last two seasons. How can you count Senderos as a loss as he didn’t play for us at all? So I think we only lost 3 defenders and this means an average of some 16 games for the three of them.
So who do we have in their place?
Let us start by the player who cost us most money so far Koscielny. We will not know how good he really is until the season is over. But as I pointed out he was one of the best defenders in the French Ligue 1 last season. And we have seen him do a great job in the games he played so far and certainly in the Emirates cup against Milan, where he showed a bit of what he can do.
But if we want to make a comparison we can only look at the statistics of last year. And he played 35 games of the 38 games in the league in France. He had a little injury in the other games and it is fair to say that otherwise he would have played all the games. Maybe he could have missed a game because he got a red card in a cup game but I’m not sure on this.
At first sight then he looks like a player that is not injury prone and can stay fit in a season. He also scored 3 goals in the league so this is the same as Gallas. Will he be as good as Gallas? We don’t know but if we look at his statistics it looks that he could be a fitter player than Gallas and could be playing more games if needed than Gallas.
Another new, but not completely new player is Nordtveit. Last year on loan in Germany he played 19 games in the Bundesliga. And the Bundesliga is not an easy competition. It is one of the better leagues in Europe and a tough one. For a young player Nordtveit played a lot of games for a side that was struggling to stay in the league last season. He was injured for a while but when he was fit he got enough games under his belt. He did rather well if we think of his age. And also in the pre-seasons game he performed on a high level so far. I think this is a player who can be counted on when the first choice players are injured.
Another player we have as centre back is Djourou. Wenger believed in him at the start of last season. And it was a disappointment that he got his injury and lost the whole season.
So if we take it in total we have 3 new or somewhat new players and they had a total of 54 games and an average of 18 games last season.
We lost 3 defenders all above 30 years old and most of them over the top of their career and now we have three new defenders who are younger and who should be at the start of the best period in their career.
If Wenger brings in one more centre back I think we have gained, if we compare the set up to the last season. And Arsenal and Wenger have said that they are looking for at least one more centre back in this transfer window. For the moment I think it is a bit balanced. 3 out, 3 in. The thing we don’t know is how those 3 players will react to the season and if they will stay free of injuries.
So on paper I see no reason to panic about the players we have at our disposal. Saying we have lost players in defence is not correct if you ask me. But one more centre back would be welcomed by me and I believe by most of the fans. After all we are Arsenal and injuries have never been far away in recent seasons.
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