Yet another defensive problem
Over the years, Arsenal have been plagued with problems at the back and have been forced to field make-shift back fours due to injuries, especially where we had all four fullbacks out for many weeks last campaign.
This time around, we have a defensive problem of a different kind, which will also leave the boss scratching his head while filling out the team sheets. The problem is that we don’t know who to start because almost all our players are fit. (*Knocks on wood twice*)
Our best defender last season was undoubtedly Koscielny, and he still hasn’t started a single game this season. He was ruled out of the first two games due to a minor injury while playing for France, and in his absence, Per Mertesacker has pulled off some amazing performances. Per’s superb partnership with Vermaelen, forced Arsene to keep Laurent on the sidelines. Hell of a substitute to have, eh?
Kos did start at the Etihad yesterday while our captain was down with the flu, and did look a bit rusty. Had Aguero stayed down after Laurent’s mistimed tackle, the referee would have definitely pointed to the spot. Kos could’ve maybe also done better for Lescott’s header, but made amends with a centre forward’s finish late in the second half. I’m confident we’ll see the Koscielny of last season once he gets a couple more games. I reckon he will start alongside Djourou against Coventry mid-week.
It’s safe to say that I’m comfortable with any of our three talented Centre Backs starting next weekend against the Chavs. I personally think Wenger will stick to the Vermaelen-Mertesacker partnership as it’s a massive game and having two very vocal defenders to guide the team is important.
Coming to our revelation at the back this season. Cafu, I mean Carl, Jenkinson. He’s another rough diamond unearthed by Arsene. Just around a year ago, he was on loan from Charlton at Welling United, a tiny club which plays in the Conference South and look far he has come. What a buy.
Standing at 1.85m, he doesn’t look like a traditional fullback and there were many, many doubters, but, oh, how he has silenced them.
Jenkinson has developed and matured a lot over this last summer. The most immediate change that struck me is his running style. He honestly used to run like he had shat himself, but now appears to have worked on that and it looks like it’s helped him a lot.
He’s also now very comfortable on his left foot and is ready to dribble with no hesitation; two things we hadn’t seen much of last term. If you remember, in the away leg versus Udinese, we started Sagna, one of the best RB’s in the world at LB, while Carl started in his favoured position. I understand that Arsene might’ve been hesitant to start Armand Traore on the left, but I’m also quite sure that he knew Jenkinson wouldn’t be too comfortable in that spot either and would be a far better starter to have than the 22 year old from Senegal.
Gary Neville, my new favourite pundit, said this after our draw with City last night: “I don’t know him [Carl Jenkinson] well but he looks like a kid that would be willing to run into a brick wall for you.” That’s exactly what we need. We don’t need a flashy player who demands big wages. I’d much rather have a gritty and determined team member who will give his 100% every time he steps onto the field in white the cannon on his chest.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if Sagna refuses a deal, I won’t be too disappointed if Carl keeps up these good performances.
This picture of the stone Carl had placed at The Armoury says it all, really. He’s a Gunner through and through.
Roy Hodgson better act quickly and call him up before he gets a senior cap for Finland and becomes ineligible to play for the Three Lions.
Our two Centre Backs and stand-in Right Back have been getting a lot of necessary phrase for having just twice in the Premier League campaign so far, but our unsung hero in the back four is unquestionably Kieran Gibbs. He’s another young English full back who Arsene has nurtured and eventually made into a formidable force. Gibbs used to often play as a midfielder for the U-18’s and Reserve squads, sometimes on the left flank and other times in the middle, but I’m sure the boss knew that he could put his speed and defensive abilities to good use by playing him as a Left Back.
To other fans, he’s certainly (in)famously known for slipping and gifting United a crucial away goal in the ’08-’09 Champions League season, and they think he’s remained at that level. But us Arsenal fans know that he’s improved tenfold since then.
With help from Steve Bould, his positional awareness has progressed a lot this term and he now knows when to burst forward and when not to. The number of late overlapping runs is something new we’re seeing from Kieran. As long as he stays fit, Gibbs will continue to improve and will chip in with assists and some goals and more importantly help our defence concede as few goals as possible, which is the most vital on Bould’s agenda.
The reactions of Arsene and Steve after Southampton scored a goal from no where when we were 4-0 up says it all, really. They looked like we were 4-1 down and were visibly very unhappy with Szczesny’s terrible error.
I’m glad that our defence has been relatively water-tight so far this season and hope we continue this fine form, because we know it’s our only weakness.
We will score goals, but not conceding them will be a big challenge and I think it’s safe to say we’re up for it.