Young At Heart At The Centre Of Arsenal’s Defence

Chelsea’s Premier League title win edges closer, with the gap between us and them 21 points until tomorrow night’s game at St Mary’s. One of the most talented squads at the manager’s disposal can’t even finish single digits behind the champions.

It’s a damning statistic for everyone involved at Arsenal, including the manager. And it’s nothing new.

The Premier League became clearer over the last round of games with Middlesbrough joining Sunderland in next season’s Championship. ‘Boro’s defensive record ought to see them mid-table; their scoring record, the worst in English football.

They were let down by not enough goals; seven of their 13 drawn games were goalless. It will, however, have been a good experience for Calum Chambers. A year on loan at a struggling club is eye-opening but playing for a squad built from the back is reminiscent of the George Graham philosophy. If only Aitor Karanka could have found a half-decent striker.

The former Real Madrid defender preached a solid backline and his tuition for Chambers is an experience he won’t forget. Karanka said back in December,

“He has a lot of good things. He is good with the ball and to be an Arsenal player is massive for him.

He’s strong in the air, sometimes he may look as if he’s not aggressive or strong, but he is really strong and he’s using that experience to play.

“I’ve no doubt that he can play at Arsenal. For me, he’s a really good central defender. He can play as a right-back as when you’re a good player you can play in different positions, but for me now he’s better as a central defender and he can improve in that position.”

It leaves with a good back-up and potential first team player over the next couple of years.

Acceptance into the Arsenal World

Chambers purchase was questioned last year, lambasted in some quarters for not being good enough. Thrown in at the deep end by Wenger, he struggled in a back four not famed for its’ defensive nous.

With a move to a back three, more opportunities open for Chambers. Next season ought to see Hector Bellerin restored to the right, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain moving into the central midfield position. The back three is less certain.

On current form, Mustafi, Koscielny, and Holding are the incumbents. Chambers would be vying with Holding, presuming Wenger doesn’t buy in the summer. Undoubtedly, Per Mertesacker is set to leave; injury curtailed the start of his season and despite our defensive woes, he hasn’t returned. It’s hard to see the German remaining at the club.

Whether that quintet is good enough in terms of quantity and quality, is the question. Nacho Monreal is adept as the left-sided central defender so there are six potential centre backs.

Surely the bigger issue is the philosophy of 3-4-3? Does Arsène actually agree with it? He’s very dismissive in his press conferences of three at the back, and there’s always been a sense the formation was the act of a desperate man.

There is work to be done if we’re to continue with the formation next season. Reshaping the squad is vital, moving on players such as Gibbs, Giroud and Sanogo, who have no future if the back-three is the way forward. Giroud moving on requires a new lead striker and a back-up, assuming Alexis stays.

That’s the mess the current set-up has got us into. Being a big club is about retaining players as well as signing them and having two-thirds out of contract in the next two seasons is mismanagement on a grand scale.

You Pull on Some Weed and You Pull on Someone

With the cup final so late this season, the month of June is the only time off, as opposed to the usual six or seven weeks in this non-competition year. Did I say that?

For Alexis, Mustafi and Özil, it isn’t. FIFA’s World Cup dry-run, the Confederations Cup, takes place this summer. That will wreak as much havoc to the pre-season as tours to Australia and China.

The latter is more focussing than anything else. For a club as notoriously lethargic in the transfer market as ourselves, the long-distance tours are a problem. Even with the interconnected electronic world, Wenger meeting with potential signings is an issue. His procrastination amplifies that.

Those are problems for the post-Chelsea world. We’ve got Southampton to contend with and that’s a more immediate concern.

’til Tomorrow.


50 thoughts on “Young At Heart At The Centre Of Arsenal’s Defence

  1. Good morning folks. Nice one Yogi, nothing like a bit of pre-transfer window speculation to get the juices flowing, and on that subject comes the “news” that Arsenal are in the process of recruiting the Sporting Director of Borussia Dortmund Michael Zorc.

    Zorc has been sounded out about moving to an unamed club in England by a London based firm of head-hunters that Arsenal have used in the past.

    Thomas Tuchel, Dortmund’s manager is thought to be on the list of possible replacements if Wenger does leave in the summer.

    Could it all be true? Hmmm!

  2. @YW why move the Ox into the centre? He clearly is exceptionally good on his right foot, has the pace to go past defenders and can deliver a quality cross. His left foot is his standing foot, although Wenger chose to play him on the left wing for most of the season. Moving him back to centre midfield negates the qualites he has shown recently. There are plenty of others that can play centre midfield.

  3. Morning YWm good read. I have seen Chambers a couple of times this season he looked at home as a centerback, in my opinion probably a better overall player than Gabriel.

    I too think ox will eventually move to the middle as wenger clearly sees that as his longterm position also he will feel the need to get bellerin involved.

    his presser was very interesting Xhaka could be ok there is a doubt over Kos and he hates the idea in fact wont even acknowledge the idea of a DOF!!!

    There is almost certainly a power struggle going on behind the scenes.

  4. Sure this can’t be right:

    We haven’t beaten Southampton at Saint Mary’s in the PL since 2003 when I think it was Pires got the winner.

    Is that right, no way in hell that can be right, can it be?

  5. Chambers is a good young CB and has shown that this season as he has developed under a manager that values a solid back 4 as shown by their record with Chambers at the heart of that. Yea he missed some matches through injury but when he played both from the reports I read and the matches of his I saw, he performed really well. Personally, I hate a back 3 and for Arsenal I don’t think Arsene is good enough tactically to properly use a 343 (in what world would you have Ozil and Sanchez dropping deep to make room for Ramsey?) so having a back 4 would do wonders. Chambers at RB works against clubs like West Ham, West Brom, bigger clubs that put a premium on whipping in crosses, winning headers and whose primary goal scoring route is free kicks.

  6. The other talking point is that Arsene said we were too crowded at CF for Perez to play, which I find a bit funny as when he has played he as played off the LW or RW and not centrally. So playing Perez on the LW with Sanchez on the RW makes and made the most sense. Still, he produced when called upon and that can’t be said about all of our strikers now can it be?

  7. C,

    c if playing a back three makes us more difficult to beat I am all for it. Personally I think its too early to make a judgdment call on 3-4-3 I think we should continue with 3-4-3 although I would like sanchex and Ozil to play more as attackers and the center midfielders be more pragmatic in their positioning. It is clearly something they need to work on in the training.

  8. silvergunner,

    Its personal preference to be honest. I personally don’t like it but I do know it can be effective, the problem that I have with the way Arsenal play the 343 is that our best two attacking players are either being asked to or forced to play more centrally and play deeper and the wingbacks are actually spending more time ahead of and in the box than Ozil and Sanchez who are then being asked to fill in for the wingbacks which makes no sense to me. It harkens back to the days when Arshavin was criticized for not tracking back even though his FB (funny enough I think was Gibbs) was constantly pushed ahead of him and forgot that his first job is to defend. The other thing is that if we persist with Ramsey centrally then that means we continue on with Ozil and Sanchez dropping deeper because Ramsey is going to bomb forward leaving just Xhaka to try and do all the link play. If we do persist on with the 343 say next season I would prefer to see:

    ——-Ozil———-Sanchez———new attacker/CF (with a new CF Sanchez moves to LW)

  9. silvergunner,

    Let me add that if we brought in a another to play next to Xhaka like Ndidi, Gueye or quite a few others around Europe that they would get the nod over Elneny.

  10. ‘No,’ said Wenger when asked if Zorc would be joining in the summer. ‘Director of football – I don’t even know what it means.’
    ‘Is he someone who stands in middle of the road and directs the players to the left or to the right?
    ‘Look I am not prepared to talk about that. As long as I am manager I will decide what happens on the technical front.’

    Does this confirm that wenger is staying and zero will change or that wenger is leaving and therefore it doesnt matter to him….either way, good to see him being open minded !!!

  11. C,

    Your information is correct. We have not beaten S/Hampton since 2002/03 when we won away 0:1.

    But the little bit you have omitted was that S/Hampton got relegated in 2004/05 and did not get back into the PL until 2012/13 since when – apart from the League Cup, they have mainly beaten or drawn with us at their home ground.

    But the Saints have often been a jinx club for us.

  12. If anyone wants to read the full report of Arsene Wenger’s interview, here it is.

    —“Arsene Wenger today dismissed the possibility of working under a director of football at Arsenal.

    The Gunners are keen to create the position regardless of whether Wenger signs a new deal to stay next season and have begun sounding out potential candidates.

    Ajax technical director and former Gunners winger Marc Overmars, Arsenal’s head of international recruitment Francis Cagigao and Borussia Dortmund’s director of football Michael Zorc are among those thought to be under consideration.

    Chief executive Ivan Gazidis is believed to be keen to restructure the club this summer after a disappointing season in which Arsenal have again failed to mount a serious challenge for the Premier League or Champions League.
    He described the recent downturn in form as a “catalyst for change”, a statement Wenger subsequently admitted he did not fully understand.

    Wenger’s relationship with Gazidis is understood to have become strained as the Frenchman continues to deliberate over his future but this morning he made it clear there would be no compromise in authority should he extend his 21-year stay in north London.

    Asked by Standard Sport whether it was his understanding a director of football would be appointed, Wenger replied: “No. I don’t know what ‘director of football’ means. Is it somebody who stands in the road and directs play right and left? I don’t understand and I never did understand what it means.

    “Sorry, no. I’m not prepared to talk about that. I’m the manager of Arsenal Football Club and as long as I’m manager of Arsenal Football Club, I will decide what happens on the technical front. That’s it.”

    Wenger’s strong stance will be viewed as a show of strength as the debate over the club’s future direction continues behind the scenes.

    Gazidis is believed to be keen for the club’s transfer negotiator, Dick Law, to step down in the coming months but he is a close ally of Wenger’s and the trio held a meeting last week at which summer transfer targets were discussed.

    Publicly, at least, Wenger continues to focus on more immediate matters, with Arsenal seeking to close the gap on fourth-placed Manchester City when they travel to Southampton tomorrow night.

    The Gunners are six points behind City with a game in hand and Sunday’s victory over Manchester United was the start of a hectic period of four matches in 10 days.

    – ‘Sunday gives us confidence to create momentum,” said Wenger. “If you look at the schedule, we play Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, Tuesday, so we have to show that we can focus in every single game. We have to use the squad in a very efficient way. It will be important that everybody in the squad contributes at the right moment.”

    Wenger addressed one other aspect of the fall-out from victory over United, namely Jose Mourinho’s assertion that his counterpart “puts too much pressure on the fourth official”.

    “I went to see him once or twice during the game, but it was amicable,” said the Arsenal boss. “I don’t feel I went overboard.”

    Interesting comments.

  13. Afternoon YW and afternoon to All. I did not see the Game at the weekend. I was in the French Wilderness ( an area knowns as the Ardeche) and must confess that I was surprised we I heard we had won. I thought we were going to get turned over.

    Having not seen the Game I cannot comment on performances etc. I see AR got the MOTM. I guess at some point he had to put in a half decent performance.

    Since the injury to Santi there have been different views and opinions given on whom should partner Xhakai etc. Is it El Nenny Coq or Ramsey? Currently it is AR

    It is obvious to me that a starting berth in the Midfield is not the place for AR.

    We KNOW AW has his pets and is forever trying to change oranges to lemons. AR is one said pet. Ramsey does not possess the player for that position. He is not athletic enough, He does not possess the skill set for such a position. Both Ramsey and Xhakia are not the type whom can beat or dribble out of a tight space. Ramsey’s passing game is not suited to the Arsenal period in my view. There are to many fancy flicks that also involve to many risks. Anybody remember Arguero’s recent goal against us. It’s as simple as that

    Chelsea – Spurs have shown that you need to have dynamic athletic competent good all round Athletic types in midfield. Kante is the new Makalele.

    Xhakia has to be partnered with Kante esque player whom is at ease with non ” starring ” role.

  14. HenryB,

    Morning Mate,

    That is so strange to me, but I guess every club has a jinx club, unfortunately it feels like we have quite a few. Even being relegated in 04/05 it means there was essentially a 7 season gap, they came back into the PL and we still couldn’t beat them at Saint Mary’s.

    Well we finally beat Mourinho and Manure so I guess anything is possible when Arsene is chasing top 4 at the end of a season.

  15. What strikes me about Wenger’s statement is how unbelievably childish and backward his words are….”what is a doff”, “as long as i’m in charge” boo hoo….that ship sailed years ago, it is quite clear that you are not in charge, otherwise we would have a far clearer direction and far better performance. In fact you haven’t even managed to make it clear yourself that you’re in charge by telling us if you are remaining as manager. Big difference between being in charge, taking charge, leading the charge. He doesnt lack self belief, good for him but he’s miles down delusional drive and doesnt even yet know he’s heading in the wrong direction. Sad. Selfish. So far over the football hill.

  16. Afternoon,

    I’d forgotten that he talked about the squad being one of the best he’d ever worked with earlier in the season. If they are that good he is either unable to get the best out of them, or they aren’t playing for him.

    Is Wenger throwing out a demand for the owner to back him or he’s off? If so, it will come down to who has the most pull with the owner. It sounds like Ivan is pushing for change, but is trying to work a compromise by wanting a DoF whilst keeping Wenger. Wenger must think that he has the owner’s support, otherwise its a fairly outspoken statement. It sounds like Ivan will go if that’s the case. What is clear is that Wenger is expecting to be manager next season. They wouldn’t be appointing a DoF prior to the end of the season, so he’s talking about the future. It’s an ‘over my dead body’ statement.

  17. It seems pretty clear to me that Gazidis can’t handle Wenger, consequently the only thing he can do is try to drive him out.

    The way he has chosen to do that is by going over his head and appointing a Director of Football, a concept that is anathema to Wenger.

    Wenger will be forced to back down and accept the D o F, or leave of his own accord. Frankly, I can’t see him toeing the line and relinquishing his all powerful position, so if Gazidis goes ahead with the appointment, he will leave at the end of the season.

  18. Salut, Ras, ça va

    — ‘Salut j n suis pas surpris par AW. Il est un connard, Un vrai connard’. 😀

    Peut-être un canard par moi. 😀

  19. They wont go ahead with any appointment now there has been a mini recovery, perfect timely chat, papered over the cracks, pollyfilla pr…. on we stumble. I’ll eat my laptop if he doesnt sign a new contract. I will be interested if gazidis goes, it will say a lot more positive things about him than i gave him credit for and a lot more negative things about wenger and our charming, present, ambitious, honest and open owner. Mike Ashely goes to more games. Low bar.

  20. So Wenger won’t work under a director of football?

    Great, thats fantastic news!

    So when does our new director of football start?

    Hopefully asap.

  21. C,

    Hi c i think we can both agree we dont want two of our more potent attacker to be on the periphery of the game so deep, for me its something that can be worked in training with the current personnel, think like the wing backs tucking in when ramsey makes a foward run etc..

    I do think this is something we shouldn’t be afraid to adopt especially against the so called bigger teams.

  22. Things are not sensible at the moment, Ras, and it puts me in mind of the rumours not so long ago that Gazidis is off.

    Power struggles are simply not acceptable at a top club, and while AW is drawing a line in the sand – but so is Gazidis by the sound of things, and it reflects badly on Kroenke, who should bang heads together, or decide who he wants, and back him.

    There is a natural break here — AW’s contract finishes this June, so ………… otherwise we will have to believe the boys will kiss and make up to which Gazidis would say ‘laisse-moi tranquille’ and Wenger would respond, ’embrasse mon cul’. 😀

  23. There is a power struggle between Wenger and Gazidis that much is becoming more apparent.

  24. silvergunner,

    I completely agree with you especially when it comes to the wingbacks. I know most like the fact that Ox goes bombing forward but I do think that at times it does hurt us because the purpose of the wingbacks is to not only provide support but also add another defensive body in midfield. I actually think Alonso has been nothing short of brillinant for Chelsea in that position as well as Moses. The thing is, in a 343 its suppose to free the front 3 to attack without needing to track back or drop deep and I feel that our 343 is the exact opposite in that it frees the wingbacks and Ramsey to attack and leave our front 3 to track back.

    Please please please somebody teach Ox how to tackle…

  25. HenryB,

    The power struggle, in hindsight, has actually been taking place since last season if you think about it. Last year Ivan had numerous, more so then before, quotes about spending money, restructuring the club as well as the squad not to mention the financial power that not only Arsene but Arsenal had yet Arsene continued saying that he had tot work under constraints, so who is lying? Personally I think Arsene really doesn’t want to spend given his willingness to bang on about having Giroud and Welbeck coming back “at some point” but not wanting to use Perez or saying he feels sorry for him? To me that shouts, “Perez was bought kind of just because” more than a want to actually buy a player.

    It is wildly unacceptable for a club of our standard and status to have this going on. I mean even the likes of Madrid and Barca who routinely have politicians and the government chiming in don’t take it this far. The real shame is that Arsene has so much power at the club that while the club speaks about restructure and pushing forward, he has drawn a clear line with statements about nothing happening futbol wise without his approval.

  26. There is a power struggle between Wenger and Gazidis that much is becoming more apparent.

    I’m sorry to say i dont believe there is, wenger wins hands down all day long. If he was in a struggle he wouldnt be so cocky about the doff and his own dire performance. We know Stan thinks he walks on water, we know Stan is greedy, we know Stan isnt in it for trophies. On that basis, good night Gazidis. If the rumours are true i’m slightly sad he doesnt – gazidis – resign on the spot, today. Probably being bunged a huge sweetener to stay compliant and not put out any bad messages.

  27. Not sure who is more of a charlatan, the manager or the owner. Like being asked to pick between the devil and the devil on an all in trip to hell. Wenger is doing way more damage than the good he has ever done at this club. As for Stan…..what an absolute cccccccuuuuuuunnnnnnnntttttttttt

  28. Its becoming clear that Wenger is the person responsible for the situation that there are no other footballing people at senior management level at the club.

    If I was the owner I would view that as industrial sabotage, and tell him to either man up under a new structure where more footballing people are brought in or pack his bags.

    Kicking back at a club/company of this size mitigating against a very real risk of being dependent on a single person is simply unacceptable for any intelligent businessman.

  29. Hi C,

    I do not know if you have seen this item about Campbell but it comes as something of a surprise to me — and I was also surprised when he left the Gunners on loan — conflicting views it seems.

    — “Joel Campbell is set to return to Arsenal, having flattered to deceive during a frustrating loan experience with Sporting this season.

    The 24-year-old winger has scored three goals and created four assists for Jorge Jesus’ side, but has only started two Liga NOS matches in 2017 and has regularly been an unused substitute or not involved altogether.

    His statistics from a disappointing season include:

    19 chances created
    15 key passes
    42.86% successful take-ons, 46% shot accuracy
    76% pass completion rate
    Dispossessed on average at least once every match
    Stats’ source: Squawka and WhoScored

    There was an option to sign the Costa Rican international on a permanent basis but given his lack of consistency, this will not be taken up by the Lions in the summer. Instead, they will be focusing on younger prospects to help progress their development within the first-team.

    Brighton have been recently linked with a move for Campbell, who has a year remaining on his current contract deal at the Emirates.

    It’s highly unlikely that he’ll feature in Arsene Wenger’s first-team plans for next season, especially given the level of attacking depth within the squad currently as well as his lack of progress since this loan move.

    With that in mind, it is possible that a cut-price transfer fee could be negotiated between the two teams if the newly-promoted side’s interest in him is serious.

  30. HenryB,

    I didn’t see the article but have been tracking Campbell (like most of those on loan) and its strange because at the start of the campaign he was getting praise from not only supporters but the manager and then something happened and he fell out of favor.

    I do think that we should have sold him last summer given it was clear he had no future at Arsenal , I do think that his style of play is more suited to La Liga or even the Bundesliga. I could see a deal with Brighton materializing but we won’t know until the summer, though it does make some sense.

    Its a strange one because when he has played the reports are good but it seems he is not in the managers plans which make you wonder why exactly they wanted him. Maybe a bad fit, maybe he doesn’t work in their system like the manager wants but either way it is disappointing to see ho quickly things have gone to shit for him.

  31. MikeSA,

    I have to agree with you, Wenger really is a stubborn dinosaur so opposed to change its is unreal. How could a DOF undermine a man of his experience a DOF would only ever help him achieve common goals if they work together.

    Just waiting for the end of the season so we know whether Ivan or Arsene have won the behind the scenes battle.

  32. Yogi

    Awesome post. In the early Emirates era I criticized Arlene endlessly for ignoring the team defense and not spending money on decent CB’s. He obviously was reading the comment section because now we have an abundance of players and we have spent a lot of money on players for that position. The depth we have is one of the best reasons to go with 3 at the back. Full credit to Arsene for at least getting some decent players for that critical position. Cech is not the same world class GK that he was 5 years ago but he is still steady and more then adequate. The one personnel issue in our defense is DM. Le Coq has not been very good and Xhaka’s best quality and his focus is more on the attacking end and we are going to have to compensate for Xhaka if we plan to use him as our “defensive shield”. However, even with that issue we have enough good players that we should be able to build an adequate defense. The shambolic defending that has been this season can only be blamed on Arsene and the culture of defensive indifference that he has allowed to evolve over the years.

  33. I thought he did well for us C, and was a bit surprised when he was put out on loan.

    Maybe there is something about him that does not meet the fans’ eyes when he is training or in his personal life. I guess we will never know.

    If Arsenal are prepared to sell him for peanuts next season — I would rather keep him for the last year of his contract, as he had something a little different to the others in our squad.
    I guess with all that is going on in the background at Arsenal, anything could happen.

  34. C @ 12:01

    I am not sure how you can pick a best starting line up for the 343 formation with our current players and leave Oxlade out. We all have our pet theories about the way we like the team to set up and play and we all have our favorite players but we can’t just ignore what actually happens on the pitch if it does not fit with what we want. Results have to trump all other considerations. No?

  35. Bill’s comment at 3:55 drew my eye back to your 12:01, C, and as Ras might say, tu m’atrappe le fou rire.

    The season has almost finished and the transfer market will soon be our oyster, and AW if he stays ( and the new guy if doesn’t) has already said there are weaknesses and we will address them in the market – players in/players out – and yet you have already got your preferred team set up and players ready at 12:01 on May 9th 2017.

    Ras said I make him laugh — and tu m’atrappe le fou rire. [You make me giggle] with your enthusiasm!! Go C!!! 😀

  36. Buggerdamnationfart!!! Auto correct!!!!! Doesn’t like my French!!

    – et tu m’atrappe le fou rire = et tu m’attrape le fou rire. (spot the difference, C?) 🙂

  37. HenryB,

    You know as most I am a big fan of Campbell as I think not only as a winger but random CF he can help. I think his workrate and talented left peg is something that has shown is very valuable.

    I think because he isn’t the “star player” many want he gets a raw deal but I think he is a much better player than say Moses and because of that he can play a role in our squad whether its for 60 mins or 30 mins, the lad works his socks off.

    I would keep him too but at the end of the day its down to whether Arsene or the new manager thinks he is worth it. I agree, he is something different from the rest of the “wingers” because not only does he track back and can tackle but has an under valued left foot and while he might not have the hype that Ox has, has more end product as a wingback or winger.

  38. Bill,

    Results do and the problem that I have with Ox is 2 fold. First as a wingback, as he has shown thus far, his tracking back leaves much to be desired because both Spuds and Manure attacked that side relentlessly and its up to the wingback to protect that side and while he can learn, I prefer Bellerin who is a perfect wingback on the right side with his defensive work and his ability going forward. Centrally, my problem with Ox presently is that he still, and even you admitted, has the penchant for giving the ball away in dangerous positions for the opposition, naturally it can be worked on but presently that’s my thinking.

  39. One of the things that we have always been frustrated with Arsene about is he has stuck with his philosophy and theories and his favorite players irregardless of what happens on the pitch.

  40. HenryB,

    We have seen Arsene say their are weaknesses for quite some time, you know the whole chase a CF the past 4 or so years, and we all see how that has turned out.

    I am rolling with the team based on history and the only potential signing being a CF/winger who scores goals if and its a MASSIVE like the difference between us and Chelsea size if Ozil and Sanchez both stay.

  41. C,

    I think it is utterly imaginable that Alexis will stay to waste another year with Arsene. He’s got maybe two big years left in his career. If Bayern offer him good money he will wreck the joint to get out. With Arsene, the team will be mid-table next year. Then Stan will find out it’s a lot cheaper to spend a lot of money to stay in the top four than spend a hell of a lot of money to get from mid-table into the top four.

  42. Arsene’s comment regarding the potential director of football says a lot about his mindset. It’s about his continuing to be in control which is probably always been more important to him then anything else. However, the fact that he will probably make close to $10M/year probably does not hurt either.

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