Arsenal’s central defence is arguably the weakest department of the positions at the club, but with eight players on their books how should the club address this and come out of the scenario stronger.
The defence under Mikel Arteta has improved significantly but the frailties have reared their head from time to time costing Arsenal a Europa League chance. There is a consensus amongst Arsenal fans, journalists and pundits alike that even though things have changed the club still need a go to central defender to lead from the back.
As it stands Arsenal have seven central defenders on their books with one out on loan at the moment in the shape of William Saliba. Of the six at the club currently two are injured and those are English men Rob Holding and Calum Chambers. That leaves the team’s available options as David Luiz, Shkodran Mustafi, Pablo Mari and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
The department is bloated now, and it seems as if the Arsenal board is interested in plugging the gapping hole at the back and avoid flirting with the midtable positions as they have done so far this season. So, if they are on the hunt for one defensive leader the question easily becomes who goes and who stays.
William Saliba is coming back from a season long loan, and he is the team’s brightest talent so he will get his opportunity to play as CB1.
It is worth stating that both Chambers and Holding suffered injuries at critical moments this season as both looked to be stamping their authority on the position. At the time both were playing under Unai Emery and the defence may have been at it worst but the performances they put in satisfied the critical Arsenal that these two could get better. That said it remains a fact that both players have put forward a limited body of work for the season and they will be difficult to sell on if the club does decide to cash in. Let’s say they stay and get another shot next season.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos who coming into the season was one of the fan’s favourites to be the leading man from the back much was expected of him this season. Even with the signing of David Luiz, Sokratis was expected to keep his position and shine for the Gunners. It’s safe to say that Sokratis has churned out some inconsistent performances and has made some errors that have cost the team goals. Before the break the Greek was being deployed at right back on two occasions by Arteta due to injury and the resurrection of Shkodran Mustafi.
Shkodran Mustafi has been one of the star players of the Arteta era. His resurgence has saw him in a position that saw starting eight games across all competitions and he has put in some above average performances. Mustafi like Sokratis has a contract ending at the end of the 2021 season and it means that either one of them or both could be on the chopping block.
David Luiz has had a tumultuous time at Arsenal thus far. From being error prone and a liability he has slowly come into his own and has been a leading man at the back of the team with his better work coming under Mikel Arteta. Even his overall game has picked up as he has found himself in positions to influence Arsenal’s attacks with his long passing range.
Pablo Mari the Spanish defender on loan, has played two matches for Arsenal so far has been assured but the level of competition that he has faced is questionable and as such the jury will be out on him. If football does come back, he will have a huge job on his hands to secure a starting job and get a permanent deal in what would be a dream move to Arsenal.
With the rumour mill linking Arsenal with another central defender who must come in and become the leading face of the defence that doesn’t have any marquee names. I think the way forward for Arsenal will be to sell at least one to two central defenders in the transfer window to welcome Saliba and a new face without wasting defensive spots. With the possibility of missing out on Europe it will be difficult to spread game time amongst many players. Most teams in Europe have four central defenders and we have double that so there needs to be serious movement, maybe not radical movement but maybe trim the department to at least five.
My verdict on the current CBs
William Saliba an automatic spot
Sokratis Papastathopoulos/Shkodran Mustafi both must go
David Luiz keeps his spot
Rob Holding keeps his spot
Calum Chambers keeps his spot
Pablo Mari gets a permanent deal if he can beat out Mustafi
A new center back in the mix could cause some major shifts in the side, but truth be told the Arsenal central defence has been due a legitimate make over for years now.