WTTGT Writer: Matt Mace
It seems that for the first time this season, Arsenal’s defenders are providing Arsene Wenger with a welcome dilemma. The team has already shipped 21 league goals this season and the centre back position has always been a cause for concern over recent years. And with West Brom (who put 5 past the Gunners home and away last season) visiting the Emirates on Saturday, Wenger will have to decide what he feels is the best pairing at the heart of Arsenal’s defence.
Experienced German defender Per Mertesacker was brought into the team in the summer and after a somewhat shaky start, the giant defender is starting to prove why he has 78 caps for the German national side. Wenger would have been buoyed by the partnership of Mertesacker and Vermaelen on Tuesday night as they just about kept an energetic Marseille side at bay.
Vermaelen’s return comes at a convenient time for Arsenal, as in their next 9 games in the league only three teams currently reside in the top half of the league. These fixtures could provide a great platform for Vermaelen and Mertesacker to form a solid understanding before being tested against the teams chasing Europe.
One dilemma that Wenger could be faced with is Mertesacker’s lack of pace, especially against the swift-footed Odemwingie. I personally feel that if Shane Long were fit then Wenger would be inclined to leave the German out and instead replace him with the ever improving Koscielny.
I’ve had my doubts about the Frenchman in the past (at one point even preferring Squillaci over him). However in the absence of Vermaelen, Koscielny has got better and better, none more so than in the recent 5-3 victory over Chelsea where he marked Fernando Torres out of the game. In fact it is Koscielny’s form that is providing Wenger with the real headache. Do you leave arguably your best performing centre back this season on the bench in favour of creating a partnership between two well established defenders?
I personally feel that giving Vermaelen and Mertesacker playing time together is of paramount importance to the North London club; but Wenger must be relieved that he can always fall back on Koscielny if things don’t quite work out.
Not forgetting that Johan Djourou is more than capable of playing alongside all of the above. But I do feel that he should be used as a right back providing cover for the injured Sagna. Jenkinson has looked impressive so far, and at home against teams that Arsenal would be expected to beat (no disrespect to West Brom) then Jenkinson’s attacking willingness is more than suitable but when games against the likes of Aston Villa and Man City occur, it may be more sensible to have Djourou play at right back to provide more stability to the team.
So despite recent criticism of Arsenal’s less than watertight defence Arsenal fans could look on with promise if a central defensive partnership is formed between two of the five (Squillaci included) first team centre backs. My vote goes for Mertesacker and Vermaelen, but who would you pick?
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