Everyone who has followed Arsenal in recent years would agree that the club’s defensive line needs a lot of work.
Sure enough, there was a lot of movement this summer on that front, but the question whether the team boasts a solid defence still remains.
I won’t surprise anyone by saying that Arsenal’s realistic objective in the current Premier League season will be reaching the Top 4. The club haven’t been in the Champions League for 3 years now and the Gunners are desperate to get back in the mix.
Online betting sites seem to think the team have a real chance of achieving it this year. Apart from the firm title favourites Liverpool and Manchester City, and rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal are given the lowest odds for a Top-Four finish.
However, for all their attacking potential, there’s no escaping the fact that you need a solid defence throughout the whole season in order to be successful. So, let’s look at who are the new faces and which defensive players left the club this summer.
Luiz is a household name for every fan who has followed the big leagues in recent years. He has had a long career at the top level and has over 50 appearances for his country. On paper, he looks like the perfect addition.
He has excellent strength and endurance, and his work rate has been praised by most managers he’s played under. He is calm and composed, comfortable with the ball and has great technique for a defender.
He will definitely add experience and quality to this Arsenal side. Not to mention the fact that he offers a rare versatility on the pitch. Not only is he adept at playing both centre-back positions, but can also adequately slot into the defensive midfielder role.
The young Scottish full-back is someone that manager Unai Emery really wanted to get. It took the club a while to sort out the transfer, but Tierney was made an Arsenal player right before the transfer window shut close on August 8th.
In my view, this kid is definitely worth the money. At just 22 years old, he has already played over 100 competitive games and has represented his country at senior level. Tierney gives you everything you want from your modern full-back, but with a touch of old school defending.
He has good pace, nice ball control and a bit of trickery in his locker. He can cross from deep and also provide killer cutback passes from the byline. Arsenal has had a high standard when it comes to full-backs joining the attack and I have no doubts that Tierney will come good on that front.
But what is most impressive about his play is that he is also a very solid defender. He doesn’t shy away from going in hard on opponents and has the tenacity to battle it out with much stronger players. He has also occasionally been deployed as a centre-back so he provides a bit of versatility as well.
Arsenal’s long-time servant and club captain left the club in a highly controversial manner. It was a bit of a sad ending to his 9-year stay in North London, however, both parties agreed that it was time to part ways.
Koscielny is widely regarded as Arsenal’s best defender in the Emirates era. He was always focused, quick on the ball and stronger than his frame suggests. On top of all this, he was very loyal to the club and always gave his all on the pitch.
He could even pop up with a decisive goal, which might have been scrappy, but it often did the trick for the Gunners throughout the years.
Monreal’s career at the club didn’t immediately take off, but he grew in his role and he became one of the first names on the teamsheet for years. Equally adept at attacking and defending, Nacho’s pace, positioning and combative nature was a joy for Arsenal fans.
Despite turning 33 in February, Monreal wasn’t showing any signs of losing his edge, but it was decided by the board that it is time he took a different challenge. Nacho will be plying his trade for Real Sociedad now, but he is bound to remain a fan favourite at the Emirates.
On paper, it seems that Arsenal have done a good job of replacing the two key figures who departed this summer. David Luiz shares a lot of what Koscielny had to offer in defence and can also score the odd goal here and there.
Tierney is also similar to Monreal and I actually believe he can be an even better defender for the club. When you add the existing pieces like Holding, Bellerin, Sokratis, Mustafi and Kolasinac things are not looking that bad.
However, all of these players are either inexperienced or are unlikely to reach a new level. Sokratis is probably the best out-and-out defender of the bunch, but he is prone to individual mistakes that can cost his team a lot.
The same goes for Kolasinac and Mustafi. Both can have their moments but are also very inconsistent in their defending. Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney have the potential to become elite defenders, but it’s going to take some time and a bit of luck as they’re both injury-prone.
Overall, I definitely believe Arsenal made steps in the right direction, but the project of fixing the defence is a long-term one. Sure, David Luiz will provide leadership and will help mentor the younger players, but to me, the quality of Arsenal’s current backline remains largely the same as last year.
The potential is definitely there but the way I see it; Arsenal will still rely mainly on their attack to clinch a Top 4 finish. At least for now.