A hint at the team to come arrived with the manager’s words of praise for Mathieu Debuchy following his performance in the centre of the defence in the recent cup matches.
With injuries plaguing the defence and more importantly, the visit to Manchester City at the weekend, Debuchy will return to the starting line-up tomorrow night. Arsène observed at the weekend how the coaching staff “are all very pleased for him because he has been through some very difficult moments with setbacks.”
“Setbacks” is an understatement. Once the obvious candidates of Diaby and Wilshere are passed, it’s hard to think of a player whose Arsenal career has been so undermined by injury. When he signed following Bacary Sagna’s departure, he seemed like a decent ‘interim’ right back while younger players came through.
It was a horrible spell between September 2014 and the end of that season. Debuchy missed two blocks of three months thanks to ankle ligament damage followed by Arnautovic’s unnecessary shove into the hoardings. A hamstring the following season robbed him of any semblance of an Arsenal future.
When called upon since, his positional play was all over the place; a player completely bereft of confidence. Zagreb, Tottenham; his 24 first team appearances since joining the club include some real horror shows.
His misfortune presented the younger players with their opportunities and Hector Bellerin took full advantage. Between the two, you’d be hard pushed to find people who would select Debuchy ahead of the Spaniard. Particularly in the right wing-back slot now operated.
To be honest, the back three has lasted longer this season than I thought it would. Arsène’s comments about re-inventing the wheel last year hinted at a quick return to a back four.
Looking for Some Gold in Dirty Water
It hasn’t happened and Debuchy’s reinvention as a central defender came from necessity rather than desire. At 32, he knows his career is winding down and who can blame him for wanting to leave in pursuit of first team football?
It hasn’t happened and under contract until 2019 at Arsenal, it’s hard to see him leaving unless we waive a fee.
So he pitches in tomorrow in the centre of defence, until Calum Chambers returns at least. Possibly, in the nightmare scenario of right wing-back. Defensive duties in that role are an optional extra at times so Debuchy would be fine there.
Chillingly, Arsène added, “From now on, he will be a candidate to fight for the team places again.”
It’s another square peg in round hole scenario and begs the question of the back three. Monreal, Koscielny and Mustafi are the first string; Holding, Chambers and Mertesacker the second, surely? Debuchy only really fits in through injury.
There’s the question of right wing-back, challenging Hector Bellerin. If Debuchy’s the answer to that question, it’s all going horribly wrong in terms of the squad. There’s too big a gap between the first team and academy if the reserve right back has rescued his career from oblivion, as a centre back.
It strikes me that we’re keeping the Frenchman on at the expense of promoting youngsters for the Carabao Cup – a competition Wenger has no love for – and the Europa League. Surely in the former, that’s the wrong way of looking at the situation?
Run Away to Some Promised Land
All of which is harsh on Debuchy. He’s done little wrong beyond making a bad career choice in leaving Newcastle United for Arsenal in what well be the worst buy of Arsène’s career. And with Francis Jeffers as competition, that’s some claim to stake.
Or is this just a bit of old flannel just to keep Debuchy chipper, knowing that at the first opportunity we’ll ditch him. The first offer which comes along is likely to be accepted and they will suit both parties, I think.
Until then, when he pulls the red and white shirt on, the best of British to him.