No, this is not an anti-Arsenal blog or one jumping on the band wagon of another Arsenal disappointment, but rather a topic in football that every fan has an opinion on which differs from the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger. The mix-up between goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and defender Laurent Koscielny in the dying minutes of the Carling Cup final cost the Gunners their first piece of silverware for nearly six years. So is it time that Arsene Wenger focused on strengthening his back four instead of his attacking midfielders and strikers?
Firstly, the two players in question are not bad players – their performances against Barcelona at home in the Champions League were both impressive, for a young ‘keeper, Szczesny looks competent in goal for a 20 year old and his half season at Brentford last season looks to have paid off in terms of confidence in his own ability, a trait that the other two Arsenal ‘keepers have been lacking. Despite a slow start at the Emriates, Laurent Koscielny is looking like a competent centre-half, his interceptions during the Barcelona game were vital in keeping the former European Champions at bay whilst also making up for his defensive partner, Johan Djourou’s nervous display.
However, since the days of Jens Lehmann, Kolo Toure and Sol Campbell, who were all important for the Gunners’ unbeaten Premier League season in 2003/04, there have been rumours and debates over Arsene Wenger signing established players to boost his defence, rather than relying on youngsters (like Szczesny and Fabianski) or lesser known players (like Squillaci and Koscielny). If you believe reports, Arsenal were very close to signing the Fulham goalie, Mark Schwarzer, at the start of this season and recently in January reports suggested an approach for West Ham United defender Matthew Upson was made.
Whether it’s listening to debates on the radio, reading forums or speaking to mates down the pub, there is a general disbelief as to why Arsene Wenger does not seem to invest in his back five like he does with attacking players. Of course, Arsenal’s philosophy focuses on the attacking side of the game but a number of mistakes in defence have been one of the reasons why they have remained trophyless in recent years.
If Wenger signed the likes of Schwarzer and Upson (or in my opinion Shay Given and Gary Cahill) would the mistake like the one in the final have been made? Of course there is not a guarantee, some of the best players make mistakes but I do think that more established and experienced players would have dealt with that situation better.
However, it would be silly of me to not mention the likes of Thomas Vermaelen who cost £10 million in 2009, proof that Wenger does put emphasis in his defence and the Belgium player has been hugely impressive since his arrival in North London. Perhaps if he was fit for the final, he would’ve been able to deal with the threat of Nikola Zigic better than the likes of Djourou and Koscielny did?
The 5-0 defeat of Leyton Orient last night will do wonders for the dressing room in getting their mentality back into the right focus. I was impressed by the performance of Ignasi Miquel in the centre of defence, the reserve team captain looked competent and tidy in his defending against the League One opposition.
If Arsenal do finish this season without a trophy, would there start to be some pressure on Wenger to strengthen his defence? Quite possibly, pundits and fans alike can’t see why Wenger does not sign an established and quality goalkeeper and central defender. The Frenchman will never get the solid back five that he inherited when joining the club but he could try and make an attempt? Arsenal have two more chances of playing a final at Wembley this season, and are still in the race for the Premier League title, so maybe I will be proved wrong….. but it’s doubtful.
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