After Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal started two games in central defence in just a few days, many fans are asking why Calum Chambers and Rob Holding aren’t being given a chance.
Koscielny and Monreal have both put in a number of good performances this season, but neither have been faultless recently yet they keep starting together.
Meanwhile, Holding and Chambers have been much improved in their few performances, but they continue to sit on the bench.
In Chambers’ case, it’s particularly confusing, because he’s just been given a new deal by the club. He’s clearly held in high enough regard to have his contract renewed, and yet he can’t get a single game in the league.
Arsène Wenger’s pre-Newcastle press conference comments might give a clue into his reasoning behind the selection, as he talked about Monreal’s transition to centre-back. He explained, “It looks to me that centre back is his best position now. He has plenty of experience on the flanks, but it’s a bit more demanding there now, physically.
“Also I like to have a right-footed and left-footed player in central defence, because that’s where it all starts, and the distribution is better balanced when you can have that.”
It’s certainly easier for Monreal to play a ball down the line for the left-back than it would be for a right-footed player, and if he has the chance to push on down the line, it’s better he does so on that side of the pitch. So you can understand Wenger’s point about playing a left-footed centre-back.
If the Gunners are going to play a left-footed player and a right-footed player in that defensive partnership, the Spaniard pretty much has to be involved. Mustafi, Koscielny, Holding, Chambers, Debuchy and Mertesacker are all right-footed.
However, the comments are a bit strange, coming from a manager who hasn’t signed a left-footed centre-back in so long.
If it’s such a crucial element to the team selection, you would’ve thought Wenger would’ve made an effort to bring one in, rather than leaving Koscielny-Mertesacker, or Koscielny-Mustafi, as the first-choice partnerships for the last few years.
He stumbled upon Monreal-Koscielny, thanks to a Mustafi injury, and now seems to be claiming that was the plan all along.
In addition, Koscielny may be the most talented central defender at the club, but he’s regularly struggled with fitness issues in recent years, and playing him twice in four days seems like an unnecessary risk.
Presumably, Chambers and Holding will play on Tuesday, with Koscielny saved for Liverpool on Friday, but that doesn’t explain why the French international was risked against West Ham during the week.
As long as Arsenal keep getting clean sheets, I’m not going to complain too much. But if one of the pairing gets injured and Chambers or Holding are forced into the team in a key game, you could justifiably point to matches like that West Ham one and ask why they weren’t eased in earlier.