Where would you buy pt. 1: defense

I have heard fairly consistently since this summer’s article outlining how Arsenal need to invest £120m and that the club needs to buy more than one player that no, I am dead wrong, just one player will do. Interestingly, it’s never the same type of player that anyone agrees on: one month it’s DM, one month it’s striker. It has also variably been fullback(s) and goal keepers that people say are the one piece that Arsenal are missing. And then there are the few weirdos out there who want a wing player. You know, a real one, not a converted center mid.

I happen to believe that Arsenal have a number of weak positions all over the field and that Arsenal are not nearly as deep as people give them credit. Here I assess the team by the positions they play and rate their offense and defense based on how others in their positions would do. After each section I give a £ rating (1-5) for the importance of buying in this position.



Offense 7/10: Szczesny fits exactly into the Arsenal system in that he rolls the ball out at a high rate, passes well, and even his long kicks (mostly to Sagna) aren’t terribly terrible.

Defense 8/10: Szczesny has only allowed three goals and already has three clean sheets including a 4 save game against Villa. Making saves at a 77% rate, marked improvement from last term’s 64%. Definitely looks like he has improved over last season.


Offense 6/10: Keepers are normally low percentage passers, he’s one of the best but is still below Szczesny in this category.

Defense 5/10: Chronically incapable of claiming the ball on crosses. Tendency to go on walkabout. Does own a 68% saves rate and has three clean sheets, which is how he gets a 5.

Fabianski: No data available. Constantly injured.

Verdict: ££ — Mannone did OK, but he’s not an equal to Szczesny and won’t put the Pole under any threat for his starting place. Fabianski never convinced before and has since been injured. My opinion is that Arsenal still need a backup keeper/player who will keep Szczesny on his toes.



Offense 7/10: Massively important player for Arsenal’s system. Passing fullback who can get up and support the forwards. Averages second most completed crosses per game. Important outlet for Szczesny to kick the ball to.

Defense 7/10: Looks to have lost a step this season and is still one of Arsenal’s best defenders. Oddly, only has one interception in four games. Possibly due to teams targeting the Arsenal left back.


Offense 7/10: See “Sagna”.

Defense 7/10: Injury prone but when he’s in the game he is an absolutely vital fullback for Arsenal. Leads the team in interceptions, 2nd in tackles, (see “Sagna”).

Kul Jenkinson

Offense 6/10: Annoyingly all the announcers pronounce his name “Kul”, listen for it next time. Crosses as well as Sagna, tops all fullbacks in successful dribbles per game, but annoyingly turns the ball over too easily. Also “only” passes the ball at an 85% rate.

Defense 7/10: 3rd in tackles per game, etc. See “Sagna”


Offense 5/10: Arsenal’s most efficient crosser, has completed 5 of 9 attempts (Gibbs has 5 also, of 37 attempts), 87% passer, only has one successful dribble, leads all Arsenal fullbacks in being dispossessed.

Defense 4/10: Teams targeted Santos and as a result he was dropped by Wenger and Vermaelen played instead. Doesn’t block, doesn’t clear the ball, and leads Arsenal in number of times the opposition have dribbled past him.

Vermaelen, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Djourou, Squillaci

No need for extensive breakdown here: Arsenal have 5 center backs and three are first team starters on most top clubs (David Luiz starts for Chelsea, Johnny Evans starts for Man U — try to tell me Vermaelen or whomever you hate right now wouldn’t start on those two clubs). Djourou was half decent at one time but never plays, Squillaci is never going to play for Arsenal ever again.

Verdict: ££££ — Arsenal have a “selection headache” in center back at the moment. But given Gibbs’ injury problems Arsenal need a left back who is better than Santos or we risk relying on playing a center half out of position. Also, Arsenal MUST re-sign Sagna or buy a right back. Thus, fullbacks must be a top priority for Arsenal in January.

Part two tomorrow: the forwards.


25 thoughts on “Where would you buy pt. 1: defense

  1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1CarsonWells

    May I suggest something. Add how much you think needs to be spent in each position, or how much each position deserves in terms of spending. I thought that’s where you were going with the graded £ scale.

    It’s kind of like weighting the final £ score you give. e.g., ££ is ostensibly not high priority, but a quality keeper would be much cheaper to buy than a high quality midfield player.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

      IMO, we need both a LB and good backup GK. Woe to the fact we did not get Vertonghen last summer as he would have been perfect for us because of his versatility across the back four .

      Shay Given 6 Mill
      Bastos, Filipe Luis, Domenico Criscito, Christian Ansaldi, Alvaro Pereira are all good LB’s who we could get for under 10 Mill

      Total = 16 Mill

  2. +3 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Can we get Vincent Kompany? I’m kidding, though I have to say he was absolutely imperious against Chelsea at the weekend. Ate poor Torres for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  3. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

    This part is the easiest.
    But I can’t wait till we get to the midfield.
    Centraldefensivemidfieldwideattackingwingerstriker anyone?

  4. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Please, please someone tell me these rumours regarding a January transfer for…Stewart Downing (?) are a joke.

  5. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

    We are frequently linked with al-Habsi and Vorm. Either would fit the bill perfectly, but are they ready to be a backup? You could make a case that both are better than Chesney, who would probably not handle backup status well. Fergie seems to have done a decent balancing act with his two keepers, that might be something Arsene needs to look at.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      This is the problem and in all fairness to Wenger, there isn’t that much option out there.

      Al Habsi, Pletikosa are early to mid 30s and may weigh playing regularly even at a relegation threatened club a better prospect than the bench with Arsenal, unless we pay them lots of money and they are keen to push Szsc.

  6. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Let me just say that Downing was shit even when he played for Middlebrough during their Europa Cup run. He could do absolutely nothing noteworthy in that final. The fact that Pool bought him at an English premium price does not mean we have to double down on Pool’s mistake. Downing is winger without speed or trickery who scores 1 good goal every season or three. The only saving grace about this rumor is that it was in the Daily Fail.

  7. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

    I think this will be a good and interesting read. Can’t say I disagree with you thus far. Although I’m not completely turned off Santos yet, because he was growing into a fairly decent player last year. Obviously that means nothing if he can’t reproduce that this year, but the fact that he was dropped for Vermaelen says a lot.

    Jumping the gun a bit, two points:
    (a) I am one of those weirdos who wants a real winger. Preferably one who can play both wings, but if not then a left winger is a higher priority. This is so that we can allow our other capable CF (Podolski) to get time in that position, as well as have a rest sometimes. I don’t know if Theo can play CF, and I don’t think the fans have the patience for a string of bad results in case we try and he can’t, so I’ll leave that one alone. But if Theo is out, that leaves Gervinho (hah) and Ox on the right. The latter is young, needs time, and seems to spend more time in the center than out on the wing. So a versatile winger, IMO, is needed.

    (b) Remember you wrote a piece over the summer saying how Yann M’Vila was basically awesome statistically, and that he did his job very well – great positioning, fast recycling of possession to more dangerous players. Do you know if he’s performed anywhere near as well recently? Because I remember you did an analysis on him and similar players, and he came out on top. Yet his stock has fallen incredibly fast. What do you think of him now? Hopefully you can address that in your next piece.

    Good stuff!

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      MVilla…which is a problem with purely statistical analysis.

      In fact Capoue came up with better marks than MVilla last season.

      He’s 6’2 and decent with going forward/ball control, plays as make shift Cback. If we are replacing Diaby with someone more durable without losing the physical aspect, he could be a decent prospect from Toulouse (should not cost as much as the Renne’s man)

      Like all other things, we should wait to see how he performs this season.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

        I based my assessment of M’Vila on a number of factors. Stats were one. He is more technically gifted than Capoue, he understands the game better than Capoue, and he is a more cultured footballer than Capoue. M’Vila’s problems are off-field not on them.

        Capoue is the kind of player that many fans of English football drool over because they think he’s like Vieira. You remember the ones: Nzonzi, Tiote, etc.

        Still, Capoue would be a good choice for backup. I think he’s yards better than Coquelin.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori


      Sagna’s contract is the more pressing and likely, he will not extend.

      Gibb’s cover may end up being Vermalen(watch this space). If Wenger brings in Yanga Mbowa say for RB as a Jenkinson alternate, he can also cover as third Cback. Miquel will likely supercede Djourou who will likely leave (if he can find a decent buyer)

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

        I hope Sagna is not allowed to leave. He has showed no signs of slowing down, as good as he’s ever been. He’s also VASTLY underrated. We wouldn’t be able to get much for him, and another team would get a solid right back for very cheap. I really, really hope he stays, because he’s just awesome in every way.

  8. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1KS

    The fact that you summed up the weak links in defence just make me so more excited for the midfield and attack.

    For me the answer to our midfield arent necessarily an anchor, but someone with physical presence next to Arteta, but he can gladly be in the mold of Diaby.

    Also a comment about a genuine Winger, Cazorla became a spain international playing there its just that atm we dont have any other players that i find capable of playing as the third midfielder with consistency

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Our weak link cannot be prescribed to defense alone.

      Our weak link in defending is when we incite pressure on the defense because our midfield is not working.

  9. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Greg

    Kind of agree. In terms of personnel, Santos is the only consequential weak link in the defence, although I’m pretty sure Wenger won’t be buying another fullback as a) Santos wasn’t so bad last season and Wenger likes to be patient with players b) Vermaelen, c) Miquel / Yennaris and d) I think he has his beady eye on other areas that require strengthening. This is all assuming Sagna stays, of course.

    A back-up keeper would be nice, but who’s good enough and still willing to sit on the bench? When you have such a young first choice keeper, you’re kind of stuck with even less experienced back-ups.

    I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say about strikers and the midfield.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      I tend to agree with Santos. I don’t think we will replace just yet albeit it might be opportunity dependent. Sagna’s replacement may be priority.

      I don’t see a back up keeper unless both Fabianski and Mannone leave. Martinez and Shea likely to be left as third choice or (gasp) graduated to second!

  10. Pingback:

    Vote -1 Vote +1Where could Arsenal buy? Pt. 2: midfield | 7amkickoff

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

    Fullbacks will be a priority in the summer.

    Likely target, Yanga Mbiwa (Montpellier) who can play across the back and as we saw in DM.

  12. Pingback:

    Vote -1 Vote +1Where could Arsenal buy? Pt. 3: Forward — plus recommendations | 7amkickoff

Comments are closed.