Mathieu Debuchy has made a surprise return to the Arsenal team, but does he really have a future at the club like Wenger claims?
Arsene Wenger was complimentary about the French right back following his performance in the 6-0 win over BATE Borisov.
Debuchy started the game in his more familiar role of right back and confounded everyone by opening the scoring with a screamer.
Wenger went on to praise Debuchy’s mental strength and toughness after overcoming several injury issues.
“Yes, because he’s mentally strong. I’ve said many times in this job you can never give up, no matter what happens for you and always be ready in case you’re needed. Not many can do that, but Mathieu can do that,” Wenger told Arsenal.com.
“He is under contract. That’s [his future] down to his performances now and I opened the door for him many times because he didn’t play and because he has Bellerin in front of him. We have as well Ainsley now who can play right and left, but I consider him like anybody else and I must say I have a huge respect for his professional side and how much he did fight to come back to the top. He’s a tough, tough guy. Tough worker.”
Wenger’s comments suggest that should Debuchy perform well between now and the rest of the season, he could have a future at the club.
At 32, you’d have to question his long-term prospects at Arsenal. While he could move in-field and play more as a centre back, just as Nacho Monreal has, he only has a few more years left at the top level.
Short-term, he has a chance. Arsenal lack genuine cover for Hector Bellerin, mostly because Debuchy has been sidelined for so long with injuries. They’ve had to rely on a 17-year-old winger in Reiss Nelson as cover during the cup matches, and while the teenager has adapted well to the role, his long-term future is surely as an attacker. To have an able and experienced defender to call upon could be very useful.
On the other hand, it’s not just cover that Arsenal lack at right back, but competition. I would have doubts about Debuchy’s ability to push Bellerin for a starting spot. He may have looked good in the Europa League, but there’s a huge difference in quality and in intensity between that and the Premier League. He shone against BATE Borisov, but frankly, anyone could have impressed in that game, such was the time and space they gave our players.
In some respects, Wenger may be giving Debuchy the chance to prove himself that he’s not had due to injuries. There’s a danger of assuming that Debuchy is a bad defender when we simply haven’t seen enough of him to really judge his ability. He could well be a good player Arsenal haven’t had the opportunity to use properly.
Debuchy may feel that he has to leave to get more regular first team football. In which case, I’m sure Arsenal aren’t going to stand in his way.
But until then, we’re probably going to see a lot more of him than we expected.