by Tony Attwood
As we know from keeping tabs on player transfer rumours in recent years the mongers go on mongering inside and outside the windows, irrespective of how many players we have in each position.
They are also (as in previous years) talking up more and more stories without any regard to either the 17 rule (the limit on the number of non-home-grown players) and the overall squad “25” rule.
So to make sense of what we have and haven’t got I thought I would undertake the task of listing Arsenal defenders and where they can play. A pretty simple task of course but still one that seems beyond the bounds of most of the bloggettas and their chums in the mainstream.
To make it easier I am restricting this list to players who are naturally centre backs or who can play centre back if called upon so to do.
Holding: 44 games so far. Age 22. Centre back
Monreal: 212 games so far. Age 32. Left back / wing back, centre back.
Mustafi: 72 games so far. Age 26. Centre back
Chambers: 83 games so far. Age 23. Right back, centre back.
Mavropanos: 3 games so far. Age 20. Centre back
Koscielny: 324 games so far. Age 32. Centre back. Injured until 2019.
Sokratis: Age 30. The Star says this signing will be confirmed today. Centre back.
So that gives us five centre backs, assuming Sokratis comes in, but with one of them injured until next year. In addition we have two full backs who can play centre back.
Surely that is more than enough for anyone – even with the idea of having two solid teams to divide up the Cup games and the League games, and taking into account Koscielny being out. (I certainly hope he does come back, but you never know with such injuries).
Or does it mean, as some have suggested, that as soon as Sokratis is confirmed then Mustafi will be off?
I would normally say that four players for two positions is enough and that with Monreal and Chambers as back up already it might just be considered that we could get rid of one player.
But let us consider for a moment that we keep all of these guys – who would be our normal two for the League and who for the Cups?
Certainly Movropanos, Holding and Chambers will all be hoping to get games in the League Cup and the easier matches in the FA Cup and Europa group stages. As for the bigger games that would give us Sokratis and Mustafi as the regulars at least until Koscielny returns. Monreal is still available but as he gets older I think the idea will be only to use him in his prime position at full back.
Unless, of course, the manager decides to play three central defenders on occasion, in which case there would be a need for a bigger number of players, particularly if he is also doing more picking players for particular matches. Given that we had such a differing home and away form last season, could he be thinking of keeping the attacking style and spirit at Arsenal Stadium while having three central defenders for many of the away games, with the wing backs having more emphasis on back than wing?
Now I think this emphasis on two teams – one for league and one for cup could be what is coming, given Mr Emery’s record thus far. If we look at his trophy list we find this…
- UEFA Europa League: 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16
- Copa del Rey runner-up: 2015–16
- Ligue 1: 2017–18
- Coupe de France: 2016–17, 2017–18
- Coupe de la Ligue: 2016–17, 2017–18
That is one league title and seven Cups in the past five years.
It is quite possible to suspect that the Arsenal board are thinking that given that Manchester City has access to the wealth of Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the City Group of football clubs spread around the world, Arsenal’s chances of overtaking them in the League is not that great – at least not for a few years. Therefore the ship can be kept afloat, as it were, by going after the three cups in which Arsenal compete. And what better person to have in charge of the club than a man who collects Cup winners trophies even more assiduously than Mr Wenger?
So I would say that when looking at the defence, and indeed when looking at the whole team, Arsenal will be looking at having a very strong squad playing in the cup matches, rather than using the cup games as a chance to give the kiddies a run out.
That doesn’t mean no chances for up and coming youngsters, but perhaps fewer chances than under Mr Wenger.
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