The biggest transformation of this burgeoning season? It’s not Brendan Rodger’s metamorphosis from promising up-and-coming manager to a burnt out, no-hoper. It’s Arsenal’s defence turning from candy-floss into rock candy. To say they’ve improved would be an understatement. They look like a real unit this time out.
It is an area that the Gunners have struggled with over the years. Defensive errors and inexperience has cost Arsenal big. But now, with Steve Bould overseeing the proceedings and players like Thomas Vermaelen stamping down their authority, the Gunners look like a tough nut to crack.
The big Belgium well deserves his role as Captain. He’s long been the Gunners’ most competitive, out-spoken and powerful player. Whilst last season he looked a little questionable defensively, he now looks to be back to his sensational best. He doesn’t mind throwing himself about, getting physical and spurring his partner on.
Per Mertesacker, meanwhile, has been the Gunners’ best defender so far this season. We all know that he’s got no pace and that he looks a little clumsy. But, it’s clear that he has a near unrivalled reading of the game. Somehow he’s always in the right position to make a timely interception, or pluck the ball out of the air from in front of a defender. His years as a centre-back in a tight, well-drilled German International side have served him well.
Then there’s Laurent Koscielny, who looks to be the Gunners third choice centre-back at the moment. He was Arsenal’s most improved player last season and is a remarkable defensive talent. He’s passionate, capable and assured. He’s sure to give Per and Thomas a run for their money.
Then there’s the likes of Johan Djourou and Ignasi Miquel. These are player who can fill in with ease if and when necessary. All in all, this is an area where the Gunners have plenty of options, which makes a nice change.
So here’s the big question: who should Arsene Wenger select as his first choice centre-backs?
My feeling is that as Vermaelen and Koscielny are two similar players, Per Mertesacker has to start alongside one of them. As Thomas is captain, it may well be him that’s selected, but it’s a close run thing.
Either way, it’s an extremely positive that Arsenal fans can no consider this question. It shows how far they’ve come.
What’s your take?
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