WTTGT Writer: Matt Cotton
Apart from a host of downbeat Arsenal fans, I don’t think anyone saw that the circus was visiting Ewood Park at the weekend.
But in their oversized clown shoes and wacky array of haircuts, the Gunners started with artistic dominance and finished with some comedy defending.
Alex Song and Laurent Koscielny were the unfortunate victims who notched an ‘OG’ next to their names on the scoresheet, but it’s the same old problem with the whole of the squad at the Emirates; why oh why can’t they defend?
After Gervinho and Mikel Arteta put the Gunners in a comfortable position, Wenger’s side went a blew it again as they gifted a struggling Blackburn outfit the points.
Everyone has been aware of their leaky defence and the side’s inability to defend a lofted ball into the penalty area and Arsene Wenger finally got out his chequebook and brought in a 6 ft. 6 German giant as the answer to all of the boss’ set-piece woes.
Per Mertesacker looks like he fits right in with the current Arsenal backline when it comes to getting beaten on the floor and in the air by average Premier League players.
Many commented at the start of game about the physical appearance of Rovers’ new-boy, Yakubu. The former Everton hitman looked like he would be more suited to playing in Masters football for retired has-beens, but he managed to grab a brace and was made to look a World-beater by the Arsenal back four.
And Yakubu spent most of last year either on the sidelines or in the Championship. You only have to look at Wayne Rooney to see what a real world class player can do against Wenger’s side.
So, given this shambolic defence display as well as the rest, it has you wondering what on earth do the Arsenal hierarchy have their players doing during training.
For all we know, the defenders are Arsenal could be training all day everyday on defending set-pieces but when you’ve got Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin as the opposition who isn’t going to look good?
It shows that change needs to be made behind the scenes at Arsenal.
The only player that appears to have a clue about how to thwart the opposition forwards is Thomas Vermaelen but with him seemingly made of glass, Arsenal are look clueless.
When Wenger took charge of the Gunners back in 1996, the side was blessed with rock solid defenders such as Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown and Mr Arsenal himself Tony Adams who helped propel the Highbury club from European hopefuls to doing the ‘Double’ in 1998.
Could one of these Gunners greats be the answer to Arsenal’s current defensive issues? I think so yes.
There are two things the Gunners faithful know when it comes to those players. The first being that they’d drag Lee Dixon out of retirement to play as centre back rather than watch another Sebastien Squillaci show, and the second is that any of these players could do a job in the form of a coaching role.
Whilst Wenger has taken all the flack for his sides horrendous start to Premier League campaign, he is a very good manager who has really transformed Arsenal. I mean for goodness sake Arsenal wouldn’t have the fantastic arena they play their wonderful fluid football in if it wasn’t for ‘Le Professor’. So for me, he stays put.
His assistant Pat Rice is another matter. Rice has been a fantastic servant to the club both as a player and coach. It is well thought that Rice is a real ‘Yes man’ when it comes to making decisions alongside his boss. But, no disrespect intended, given his age and the current state of the side, is it time for him to move on?
I’m not saying he has done anything wrong or to warrant being replaced as Wenger’s number two but times are changing and are at the moment leaving Arsenal behind.
Look at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Fergie has changed his number two every few years to a positive effect. Steve McClaren, Walter Smith and Carlos Queiroz have all served the club well and helped forge United into England’s most successful club.
Should Arsenal be doing the same?
Going back to my earlier point about former players, the outstanding candidate seems to be Steve Bould.
Whilst Adams has had a mixed start to management and Winterburn a brief coaching stint at Blackburn, Steve Bould has been coaching the youth at Arsenal for a decade now.
Not only has he kept involved with the club, he has managed to win things with players like Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs back in their youth days.
Bould currently runs the under 18s side that won back-to-back Premier Academy League titles in 2009 and 2010 as well as adding an FA Youth Cup to those accolades in the former year.
Bould has managing experience, has been winning things and most crucially of all knows how to defend.
Surely it’s only a matter of time before the board recognises this and acts on it.
Despite what I’ve said, Arsenal don’t have awful defenders, they’re athletic and technically gifted but just seem to be missing that X-Factor.
Given the chance, Bould could make Arsenal into the defensive titans they used to be know as.
John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are two partnerships that have won domestic titles in recent years. With some work, Vermaelen and Mertesacker could be next in line with adequate backup in the form of Koscielny, Djourou and Miquel.
Just like the manager’s position, Arsenal don’t need a new defence, just a changed one.
Could Wenger and Bould do the business for the Gunners? Time will tell.
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