Right, straight into it for me, and something I’ve thought about all season but have never really blogged before. It’s a question I’ve always asked myself but never really voiced to anyone except the little people in my head who like to dance and merry dance in my brain and talk of times of yore long ago when the malted drink was at its prime of flavour. Anyway, i digress – This might be a wee bit controversial and might throw up a debate or two, but I guess that’s the beauty of being a gooner and blogging online – plenty of opinions to bat about and debate online.
Should Arsenal consider getting a new left back?
Contentious I know, especially as we have two very likeable characters that are currently vying for the left back slot. Both Gibbs and Santos have their plus points and both at times last season looked great – not least Santos away against Chelski (second half only) scoring an important goal and Gibbs against West Brom with THAT tackle – but I just can’t help wonder if this is an area that we could be considering improving as we look to mould a new team with new personnel for the next season. This thought of mine is bourne out of the pretext of me thinking: what would it take for us to get a championship winning and all conquering side? Consider this: how many fans saw the arrival of Sagna in the right back position as one that we all needed? At the time many Arsenal fans still had high hopes for Eboue and expected the departed of Lauren a year earlier to coincide with the Ivorian’s rise to first choice right back. But that never really materialised and when Sagna came in he was an almost instant hit and has been ever since. The great thing about Sagna is he can both defend very well – having a good spring in the air, good recovery pace and at times some really excellent positional sense when covering for a Vermaelen/Koscienly saunter into the opposition half – but he also gets forward and can provide extra attacking option to support either Theo or any other player in the right of the attacking three. With the way we are set up at times, with Walcott and Gervhino drifting centrally and switching sometimes, the importance of the full backs for width, support and also stretching of opponents defence, becomes really important. Yes, his crossing could be better but he does everything else so well i think its one we can let slide. I would therefore pose you this question: do you think we get that completely from Gibbs and Santos like we do with Sagna?
Let’s start with a short précis of both footballers. Firstly, Kieran Gibbs. There is no question that he is a talented individual, as he has shown on many occasions, but the one area he falls down on is something he has no control over: the susceptibility his body has to injury. I accept that every player can have a season where they are unlucky with injuries, but some players are just prone to breaking down, I fear Gibbs is the latter. He has shown through his attacking forays that he can perform the supporting role further forward in the pitch, and I’m in no doubt that he is better defensively than Santos, but I find myself constantly asking the Diaby question with him I.e. when is he next going to get crocked.
Andre Santos is not a player that has looked as frail as Gibbs. An unfortunate back injury ruled him out for a large chunk of the season at a time that one of Gibbs’ many injuries would have given him a prolonged spell in the side, but the way he is built coupled with his rugged defensive style, suggests to me that he can be relied on more than Gibbs to go through an entire season unharmed. However, this is a Brazillian we are talking about, so naturally his most effective part of his game is less to do with his defensive duties and more to do with his presence in the final third. He has that little bit more swagger about him going forward than Gibbs, exemplified by the number of goals he has scored at the club compared to Gibbs. Santos is more of a risk-taker: both defensively and offensively. When defending one-on-one Santos will not think twice about committing to a challenge which often leads him to losing out and causing us issues of over-exposure. And in attack, he has no problem with taking on a shot, which can sometimes lead to the inevitable groan when his efforts don’t bare fruit. Compare and contrast this to Gibbs, and you have a more rounded player who doesn’t take as many risks defensively but equally does not get as many rewards offensively.
So what’s the answer? Is it to look at a new signing from left field (so to speak) like Sagna was? There has been comments made about Arsenal wrestling Jan Verthongen from Spurs’ grasp, but I think that’s wide of the mark. Verthongen is a central defender and we have plenty of those. We don’t need another square peg in a round hole. Another name that has been banded about is Leighton Baines, but by the sounds of it he will be expensive, and we all know what Arsene thinks about delving deeply into the bottom of the Arsenal coffers. What about these Euro’s? I’ve been impressed with Jordi Alba of Spain, but again his value will probably saw as every game moves on through the tournament.
So ultimately what should we do? Or what will we do? I think the thinking is probably that we have other areas of the team that need strengthening before we look at that left back role, and so I think that area will remain largely untouched for the next couple of years.
Food for thought. So what is yours?