Arsenal have been notoriously poor defensively since 2004 when they last lifted the Premier League trophy, with the Gunners trying numerous back four combinations in a bid to solidify their back line. With Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, the north London outfit have seemed a lot more assured in recent seasons. But the Gunners still lack the confidence to see out matches they would be expecting to win – with West Ham’s 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium on the opening weekend a clear indicator of that. Petr Cech had an uncharacteristically poor match that day, but Arsenal’s comedy of defensive errors presented the Hammers with the opportunities they needed which they duly took. Kieran Gibbs, Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin are the long-term options at full-back but they don’t scream ‘title-winning defence’ either. The Arsenal back line is good – it is just a question of whether they are good enough. My feeling is that they fall short.
How many times have we been down this route? The Gunners are desperately in need of a confident, mobile forward who can fire them to Premier League glory. Since the departure of world-class forward Thierry Henry to Barcelona in 2007, the Gunners have lacked an explosive forward who can produce a moment of magic to win them the points. Constantly linked with the likes of Karim Benzema and Edinson Cavani, Arsenal’s inactivity has indicated that they believe Olivier Giroud is their man. And the support is admirable from Wenger – although most of the rest of the league can see that he most likely isn’t the right man for the job. Without that star striker on their books, Arsenal are facing another season without Premier League glory.
As pointed out in a ferocious Monday Night Football programme featuring Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher against Henry himself, the Gunners don’t have a marauding midfielder. While recent winners Manchester City have had Yaya Toure at the heart of their team, Chelsea have had Nemanja Matic and Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side had Paul Scholes. Arsenal haven’t had a midfielder of an imposing mould since Patrick Vieira departed for Inter Milan, and have since relied upon lightweight midfielders who can play a nice game but are far too easily bullied off the ball. While Francis Coquelin appeared a revelation last season, he is far from an terrifying midfielder. He could work alongside a partner of the above ilk, but Wenger lacks anyone of that profile to support Coquelin in the holding role.
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