And you thought the first team was thin for defenders?

Martin Angha took to twitter, and Arsenal wrote on the official site, that the young Swiss defender has agreed to a pre-contract agreement with FC Nurnberg of the German Bundesliga.

I had the privilege, although very briefly, of meeting the young defender at London Colney in November after a tough loss to West Ham. He’s a well spoken lad with clear thoughts on where he wants his career to go.

Martin Angha is the only full back in the system that I believe has two feet. He is capable of playing both sides for Arsenal, and even deputizing in the middle with his height and mobility. When I saw him play in November a scout from PSV Eindhoven was ferociously scribbling down notes. While I do not read German or Flemish, the scout was kind enough to confirm that Angha was one of three players they had a keen interest in taking on loan in January or signing in the summer.

His decision to accept a move to FC Nurnberg in the summer is not surprising as the lure of first team football is what will get him into the Swiss national squad before too long. Euro 2016 is an achievable target for the 19year old. The loss of Angha in the summer means that the depth chart for Arsenal is horribly weak.
Arsenal’s depth chart at fullback has been an area of little joy for me as a supporter of the club. When Thomas Cruise was released Arsenal lacked a left back with any credibility. Clichy was sold the same summer after Cruise as been released at season’s end. This left Arsenal with Kieran Gibbs and nothing more. Hector Bellerin was bought as a prospect and on deadline day Andre Santos was brought in.
Right back was also an issue with Eboue gone, Coquelin moved into the midfield, Bartley moved centrally, and Eastmond destined for the holding midfield role; only Bacary Sagna was left at right back until Jenkinson was bought. Angha and Meade were on the books in the reserves/academy, but far short of the Premier League.
Fast forward a little over two years and Arsenal is in a very similar predicament. At left back we have Monreal and Gibbs, in the reserves we have Jernade Meade; at right back we have Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson, in the reserves/academy we have Hector Bellerin. Martin Angha was the most likely to be promoted to the first team, but it would only come at the expense of an injury to a senior player. It would actually take multiple injuries as Wenger might choose to deploy Vermaelen as a third choice left back and Koscielny as a third choice right back. Arsenal while having the minimum amount of Premier League cover you need to be competitive are lacking in the development properties required.
Bacary Sagna is 30 and unlikely to remain at Arsenal longer than another season (I would not be surprised to see him leave this summer). Carl Jenkinson, the corporal, is not ready to assume the day-in, day-out responsibilities, so someone else needs to be signed to Arsenal. If someone cannot be found to fill the void Arsenal will be perilously thin at right back.
Arsene’s policy of using younger players in the League Cup is great for keeping them involved in the fall months, but the latter half of the season (even if Arsenal make the League Cup final) is dry of first team opportunities. 

The club have to do two things going into the summer. First, they must go out and buy some prospects to polish into fullbacks. Second, the club must find a way to retain this talent even if a first team spot is not immediately available. Kyle Bartley was being groomed to join the first team, but his desire to play regular football meant that his schedule for promotion did not match the schedule set out by the boss. Martin Angha appears to be the next one whose departure rings that tune.

Now I realize that I have painted a dark picture, but such is the measure of my resolve. Arsenal have become weak at full back. I raised the concerns in the fall in another article on Welcome to the Gunners Town regarding left back, now we have an issue at right back.
I’m really sad to lose Martin Angha, but optimistic that Arsene can find another couple of youngsters to train up for the first team level. I am also praying that Colin Lewin and his team can keep Monreal, Gibbs, Jenkinson and Sagna healthy until replacements are available.


2 Responses to And you thought the first team was thin for defenders?

  1. April 12, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    Angha is leaving arsenal, because he does NOT want to play full-back. He said himself that the path to the first team is heavily blocked in front of him at full back with sagna, jenkinson and bellerin all better right backs, whilst monreal, gibbs and meade are all better left backs, with ormonde-ottewill and alfred mugabo breathing down his neck. The club offered him a contract but as they dont feel he is a centre back, angha refused the offer and has decided to leave. currently the club have mertesacker, koscielny, vermaelen, djourou, squillaci, miquel, boateng, hajrovic, hayden and monteiro who are all considered as better centre backs than angha. That said i expect 4 of those centre backs to join angha in leaving the club this summer. however i expect at least 1 new centre back signing, may be two. I still hope Sagna will stay, but if he doesnt i am certain we will sign another experienced right back. angel, van der weil, coricha, jamnaat are all possibilities.

    Martin Angha has made the right decision and the club have acted responsibly as they are right in how they view angha currently.

    You should be careful of scaremongering. We have an enormous amount of youngsters at the club. In fact we have no less than 53 players that are 22 or under, with a further 8 already have signed new scholarship deals to join july 1st. Obviously there has to be some natural wastage and whilst the club wanted angha to stay at best he would have gone on loan this season and played u21 football again.

  2. April 12, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Having seen much of the Arsenal youth in person, Angha is the most versatile and best full back. We're going to be in a similar position with Bellerin in a year or two. The lad will want first team football, will be on the cusp of the first team and go elsewhere to get his fill. As for Van der Wiel, he will be too expensive for Arsenal. I stand by the story, and do not feel it's scaremongering, but for Arsenal the new challenge is going to be keeping the players who are not quite ready for the first team, but feel they are entitled to first team opportunities. With Sagna (or another starting RB) and Jenkinson, everyone who follows will want first team football, at some point. Once they feel they have that skill and have a ceiling over their head, they will leave. Arsenal, as a club, have to find a way to keep these guys an extra year or two until they are ready to join the regular first team squad week in and week out. While Arsenal have a reputation for giving youth a chance, the opportunities for younger players to get into the squad are slightly smaller than two to three years ago as the average age of the squad is going up.

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