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Arsenal’s Case for the Defence

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When Arsene Wenger arrived at Highbury in 1996 he inherited an Arsenal team that was sparse of attacking capability (Wright and Bergkamp aside), but forged in steel at the back.

The names of Seaman, Dixon, Keown, Bould, Adams and Winterburn are etched, not just in Arsenal history but in Premier League history as well.

Those six players allowed Wenger to set himself the task of making Arsenal more solid in the midfield, which he did with the signings of Patrick Vieira and Manu Petit; and more scorching in attack, which he achieved with the signings of Marc Overmars, Freddie Ljungberg, Nicolas Anelka and, of course Thierry Henry.

‘Boring, boring Arsenal’ became the entertainers of the English game and also the first team in the Premier League era to launch a sustained challenge to Manchester United’s supremacy.

Trophies followed and the previously unknown Frenchman became the toast of England, credited for improvements in diet and philosophy.

Now, fifteen years later it is those philosophies that are threatening to bring down the Wenger era. The chorus of boos that greeted the players at the end of the FRIENDLY match with the Red Bulls was a sign for concern.

There has been growing discontent amongst the Arsenal faithful about Wenger’s reluctance to spend big money married with his belief that he can nurture players from youth to full team. One such player, Denilson has recently been loaned back to Brazil due to his inability to perform effectively in the Premier League.

The single biggest issue to have affected Arsenal in six years since they last lifted a trophy is at the back.

Following the departure of Jens Lehmann in 2008 Arsenal have used four goalkeepers: Manuel Almunia, Lucasz Fabianski, Vito Mannone, Wojciech Szczesny (five if you count Lehman’s return). Compare this to their rivals during the same period: Man Utd – Van der Sar; Liverpool – Reina; Chelsea – Petr Cech. Even at Man City its not inconceivable that Joe Hart will be their keeper for the next decade. Wenger’s juggling in this vital position brings about instability, which leads to problems even before one considers the merits of the individual stoppers.

Last summer Arsenal flirted with bids for both Pep Reina and Mark Schwarzer. However, neither deal materialised and the club entered the season with the same set of keepers.

With such uncertainty behind them its little wonder that Arsenal’s defence has encountered such problems.

Wenger has tried a number of players (including bringing back Sol Campbell at one point). He also brought in Emanuel Eboue, Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, Laurence Koscielny and Seb Squillaci with varying levels of success.

Vermaelen has looked a tidy defender with an eye for goal, but also with a susceptibility to injury. However, both Koscielny and Squillaci have shown themselves to be prone to error (for Koscielny, see his part in Birmingham’s winner in the Carling Cup final).

What all three of these central defenders possess is the ability to ‘get the ball down and play it’, which follows the Wenger philosophy of passing football. However, it can be argued that what those players DON’T possess is the ability to get down with the mud an’ studs and put their bodies on the line for the team.

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  • Rez says:

    Get David Dein back, let him discuss player transfers as quite clearly Wenger is ruining our club and his reputation. Penny pinching is not going to win tropies at the moment as the likes of Chelsea, Man City and now PSG and Malaga will make it harder for teams to compete. All this debacle about financial fair play is a farce UEFA, FIFA know it. If club decides to sell the directors box at X amount of millions there is nothing this morons can do about it. Wining gives you global exposure hence more money and fanbase. Fans around the world will be glory hunters as everyone wants to be associated with winners. Arsene needs to work on his team and stop focusing on the financial side of things as clearly it takes us years to discuss transfers and we cannot attract world class players as a result. Who would want to stay at a club that cannot win tropies? Arsenal in contrast is the 3rd biggest club in England and needs to show it’s ambition. You might say we can get a billionaire to spend and when he/she is no longer interested we will in serious trouble. Like players, owners will come and go and replace each other. As long the club is established as a winner and global brand there will always be a buyer for the club. Just look at the Mancs, if the Glaziers sold them how mnay will be interested in buying them?

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