Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Arsenal's Need For A New Centre Back Examined.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told us only last week that he wouldn't be making and moves in the January transfer window unless Thomas Vermaelen didn't react well to his return to training after his injury. Vermaelen hasn't played a game for Arsenal since August, and he is seen as their first choice centre back, with any one of the other three available to play alongside him. The latest news is that he might not be reacting as well as hoped for to his return to training, and if that's the case surely Arsenal will need to make a signing very soon to keep their trophy hunt going on all four fronts.

It also has to be considered that Sebastien Squillaci has now picked up a hamstring injury, and he could be out for a while too. Added to that Laurent Koscielny wasn't in the squad at the weekend, as he had a slight knock, and Johan Djourou missed all of last season with an injury. Up until a week ago the boss had said that he didn't want to play Djouron twice in the same week, as he was still recovering from that year he missed. When all of those factors are considered the only logical conclusion is that he has to sign a centre back as soon as possible.

A lot of the usual suspects have reared their heads in the rumour mill again, and I'll try to run through their various upsides and downsides, as well as the chances of Arsenal signing them. As it stands Arsenal have a minimum of 22 games left this season if they go out of all the cup competitions at the next stage. The chances are of course that there will be more games to play, as they are still favourites yo progress in both the FA and Carling Cups. In my opinion that means that they need a player who can play as often as possible, and who can play at the highest level too.

The first name on the list is a player who has signed for Arsenal twice before, and is currently sitting on the sidelines at Newcastle United. Sol Campbell decided last summer that what was left of his career would be spent at Newcastle rather than fight for his place at Arsenal. For me I think he is a player who is well past his best, and it would be a foolish move for Arsenal to sign him yet again. At 36 years of age he has lost some of his pace, and he wasn't able to play two games in a week last season. As a stop gap signing he is worth thinking about, but for a team looking to seriously challenge for four trophies I think he's a player who should not be considered.

Next up is Gary Cahill of Bolton Wanderers who is a centre back that is improving with each season. He has plenty of Premier League experience, and from what I have seen I think he would be capable of playing in the current Arsenal team. His lack of experience in European competition might count against him, but he is a good ball winning centre back who is also not afraid to get on the ball and use it. At 25 years he won't reach his peak for a couple of seasons yet, and that would give him a good few years at Arsenal if he was signed. The biggest problem with Arsenal signing him would be the estimated asking price, which is rumoured to be £20 million, and would be a record buy for Arsenal. I can't see Arsene Wenger spending that sort of money on a defender, as he probably considers his current crop more than capable of sufficing, and it might cause long term problems if he signs a player who would expect to be a first choice.

Per Mertesacker is another player who has been mentioned every time Arsenal are linked with signing a centre back. He is a current German international who plays for Werder Bremen, and at 6' 6" he would certainly be a help when it comes to Arsenal's perceived weakness at set pieces. He may be lacking a little in pace, but there are plenty of other defenders in the squad who have more than enough pace to counter for that. He is also noted for his goalscoring ability at set pieces, and Arsenal could do with their defenders adding a few goals at the moment. At 26 he could be said to be approaching the peak years of his career, and I think he would be an excellent signing. I'm not too sure what his current contract situation is, but he would still cost less than Cahill I'm sure.

Everton's Phil Jagielka has also been linked with Arsenal for quite a while now, and he certainly is a good defender. On the plus side he is well used to life in the Premier League, but he is relatively inexperienced at European and international level. He wouldn't be as imposing as either Mertesacker or Cahill, and he is very injury prone too. Added to that I'm sure Everton would demand a fairly high price for a player who is already 28 years old, and is probably at the peak of his career.I don't think it worth be worth the risk of signing another injury prone player with so many of them at Arsenal already.

Finally for this review there is Christopher Samba of Blackburn Rovers who at 6' 4" would again fit the physical requirements. He is an imposing centre back who wins the majority of defensive headers for his club, and also scores a few goals of his own from set pieces. At the moment he has said that he wants to leave Blackburn after Sam Allardyce was sacked as their manager, and that could be a very positive sign for Arsenal. He hasn't got a lot of European experience but he has played for the Congolese national team on least 20 occasions. From what I've seen of him he can do all the dirty work that is required in the domestic games in England, as well as being able to play a little bit as well. He may well be the best option for Arsenal, as he is more than likely available, and at 26 he would fit the profile of an experienced player that I think is required.

There may well be other options available to the boss, but I certainly think that Samba, Mertesacker or Cahill would all add to the current squad, and should all be considered. I think it's vital that Arsenal sign a centre back as soon as possible, and that he is a player that is capable of stepping straight into the team too. I also think that a back up defensive midfielder to cover Alex Song is needed, and if a player can be found to cover both of those positions then he might well be the ideal purchase. If you have any ideas what player might fit that bill feel free to let me know in the comments or on Twitter, but otherwise that's it for today. I'll be back tomorrow with my preview of the first leg of Arsenal's Carling Cup semi final away to Ipswich.

That's it for today.

Here's a look at the best Arsenal centre back of them all. 

See You Tomorrow.


  1. Miss the doctors of defence! Any idea if Arsenal have moved at all for Samba ?

  2. @OhioGooner I have no idea and he's not exactly a typical Wenger signing but I still think he could do a job for us.

  3. Chris Samba is 26 (top of his game sort of age) and French, so I'd say he was an ideal 1-2 year gap filler. He'll cost too much though, and that's the same for anyone in England, which is why I think Mertesacker is a better bet.

    I love Sol, but please, not again!!

    Also, apparently Vermaelen is a little nearer to coming back (in training now) and Squillaci's hamstring isn't as bad as first thought.

  4. No sooner said that about Vermaelen than Arsenaldotcom post a story about a new setback. Okay I reckon either Hangeland or Mertesacker - which means Wenger will surprise everyone with an unknown 23 year old African... probably.

  5. I would love either Mertesacker or Cahill to come to Arsenal.. No to Jagielka because he is way too injury prone.. The reason we want a Cb is because of Djourou and the Swiss international has been fitter than Jagielka.. Hangeland is a decent option but Mertesacker is a better option...

  6. Btw.. Michael, If possible just have a look at my blog arsenalinvincible.blogspot.com ... I started it only one month back...

  7. @Vijay I'll check it out in the morning.

  8. @ReZnuK I'd take either Hangeland or Mertesacker right away if it was possible and Samba would do too.