Football at the Emirates is back, finally. But not to be lost in all the excitement, some key decision are still left undecided at the club. Our squad size as of the time this is written is standing at a gargantuan 33. The squad size needs to be trimmed and the final squad decided. Late into last season, Wenger made a key decision to switch to a back 3 and it yielded positive results bringing the FA Cup back to the Emirates along with the Community Shield with both victories coming over a strong Chelsea side. But coming into the new season, who should be trusted with starting in the centre back and wing back positions?
LEFT WING BACK: SEAD KOLASINAC
Although the new signing hasn’t played a single bit of Premier League football, what he displayed in his cameo in the Community Shield leads me to believe he will quickly establish himself as a cult hero at the Emirates. Bombing down the left wing with pace and aggression, Kolasinac quickly endeared himself to the Arsenal faithful. At only 24 years old and 6ft tall with that muscular frame, he has the ideal traits to be the perfect fit in the new system. Additionally, he finished the Bundesliga with 3 goals and 5 assists he ended up in the Bundesliga showing that robust nature does have positive end product.
LEFT CENTRE BACK: SHKODRAN MUSTAFI
Last summer’s signing has fitted into the system seamlessly since his arrival from Valencia. A 22 game unbeaten run ensued as soon as he was inserted into the team so his impact was very clear to see. A significant pace upgrade from Per Mertesacker allowed the team to play much higher up the pitch and with a faster tempo without the fear of getting caught out. The partnership struck with Koscielny was very fruitful displayed by the dominant performance over Diego Costa at the Emirates. He is also very adept at bringing the ball out from the back shown by his 82% pass accuracy and can is a threat from corners. However, he needs to be much more cautious in challenges as he picked up 11 yellow cards last season.
MIDDLE CENTRE BACK: LAURENT KOSCIELNY
First things first, Koscielny’s achilles injury is a real concern. He revealed in May that he is going to need daily treatment for the rest of his career to ensure that he continues playing. With the Europa League in the equation now, he may be asked be play two games in 3 days along with long distance travelling which he may not be capable of doing. However, despite all that, he is by far the best defender at the club and an automatic starter whenever he can play. A leader at the back with the respect of the whole team, he should be starting whenever he can. With the 2nd most interceptions in the league last term (90) and with the most over the past four seasons (406), Koscielny is a key part of any success the club wishes to have moving forward.
RIGHT CENTRE BACK: ROB HOLDING
Although the sample size of young Rob Holding is still very small, the performances he has displayed have been extremely encouraging. Partnered alongside Koscielny and Mustafi, he has taken the opportunity with both hands and should look to be a mainstay in the team for years to come. In the 9 games that he has featured in, he has an impressive 75% tackle accuracy and we have kept four clean sheets in the process. Holding will fully be expected to continue to mature this season and I expect him to keep his place in the team as he is fully deserving of it.
RIGHT WING BACK: ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN
The Ox has had a frustrating career so far. Unlimited potential stifled by consistent niggling potential prohibiting that talent from shining through. However, when Oxlade-Chamberlain was moved to right wing back, he slotted in seamlessly and it looked as if he had the requisite skillset to make that position his permanently. With defensive duties not being that strenuous due to the 3 centre backs. The Ox can bomb down the flank and be a potent offensive weapon. Additionally, The Ox had somewhat of a breakout year in the past season by registering 7 assists, the highest total since joining Arsenal. If he can replicate that kind of production again, along with his dribbling, penetration and underrated passing ability, he will be one of the most important players in this system. Furthermore, his defensive effort shouldn’t be glossed over as he did finish the season with 81% tackle success, 11 interceptions and 100 recoveries proving that he is more than capable of being an asset at the back.
THE BACK UP OPTIONS
Nacho Monreal (Positions: CB, LWB)
- Monreal is the ultimate professional in the squad. Primarily a left back, he has performed extremely admirably a when used as centre back cover in the past. With his understanding of the game and defensive positioning, he is a more than useful addition to have as back up when required – VERDICT: USEFUL
Hector Bellerin (Positions: RWB)
- This might be the most exciting positional battle within the club. When Hector is on song and performing at his best, a case can be made for him being the best right back in the league. However, his performances have the tendency to be very inconsistent and that partnered with his very poor final delivery, this is why Oxlade-Chamberlain should be the starter. But, we shouldn’t be surprised if Hector is installed as the starter as Wenger has continuously persisted that he sees the Ox being more of a central midfielder. VERDICT: USEFUL
Calum Chambers (Positions: CB, RWB)
- Chambers has all the quality so succeed at Arsenal. He has the height, build and pace to be a very good centre back. However, playing time may be at a premium for Chambers due to the other centre backs at the club. Wenger should definitely aim to let Chambers on loan again to a Premier League team and look to bring him back next season due to Mertesacker retiring. VERDICT: USEFUL (But needs playing time)
Mathieu Debuchy (Positions: RWB)
- No need to dwell on this, has been overtaken by Bellerin and the Ox, probably won’t see the field very much and should be looking to move on. VERDICT: NOT GOOD ENOUGH
Carl Jenkinson (Positions: RWB)
- Similar to Debuchy, Jenkinson simply isn’t going to get the playing time to be considered useful. The opportunities have come namely when Bellerin and Debuchy were both injured. However, he claimed he wasn’t mentally ready and Gabriel had to be used in that position and performed to a decent level considering it not being his natural position. VERDICT: NOT GOOD ENOUGH
Per Mertesacker (Position: CB)
- Very clear that best days are behind him and won’t see much time on the field. However, being the club captain, his value is going to be most felt in the dressing room and will be a tool to galvanise the team in a way that Wenger may not be able to. VERDICT: USEFUL (Dressing Room)
Gabriel (Position: CB)
- The new formation should make Gabriel much more comfortable and efficient. When playing in a centre back pairing, he looked unsure of him and was somewhat of a liability. But with the additional defensive cover, his tenacity and aggression can be useful traits when called upon. VERDICT: USEFUL
Kieran Gibbs (Position: LWB)
- Should have locked down the left full back position years ago but with inconsistent performances and constant injuries, the window open for Monreal to snatch the position away and he accomplished that with aplomb. Also, with Wenger bringing in Kolasinac, it can be assumed he perceives Gibbs as not being good enough hence making him dispensable. VERDICT: NOT GOOD ENOUGH