The squad size needed to be trimmed and the final squad decided and Wenger duly obliged. Many players were moved to pastures new and Wenger was able to trim the squad to a respectable size. Late into last season, Wenger made a key decision to switch to a back 3 and it yielded positive results bringing the FA Cup back to the Emirates along with the Community Shield with both victories coming over a strong Chelsea side. But as the season progresses, who should be trusted with starting in the centre back and wing back positions?
LEFT WING BACK: SEAD KOLASINAC
Although the new signing hasn’t played a single bit of Premier League football, what he displayed in his cameo in the Community Shield leads me to believe he will quickly establish himself as a cult hero at the Emirates. Bombing down the left wing with pace and aggression, Kolasinac quickly endeared himself to the Arsenal faithful. At only 24 years old and 6ft tall with that muscular frame, he has the ideal traits to be the perfect fit in the new system. Additionally, he finished the Bundesliga with 3 goals and 5 assists he ended up in the Bundesliga showing that robust nature does have a positive end product.
LEFT CENTRE BACK: NACHO MONREAL
The Spaniard, arguably the most underrated aspect of this Arsenal should be one of the first names on the team sheet. Monreal doesn’t attract all the acclamation that his other teammates might attract, his importance to the team shouldn’t be underrated. Capable of coming out of defence with the ball, he is a capable passer moving the ball efficiently from defence to midfield. However, what is most impressive about the Spaniard is his defensive positioning. Marshalling the left channel, he is rarely ever caught out of position and is capable of locking the down the best of strikers even when confronted with 1 on 1 challenges. An excellent player and a change in formation has brought about very fruitful results.
MIDDLE CENTRE BACK: SHKODRAN MUSTAFI
Last summer’s signing has fitted into the system seamlessly since his arrival from Valencia. A 22 game unbeaten run ensued as soon as he was inserted into the team so his impact was very clear to see. A significant pace upgrade from Per Mertesacker allowed the team to play much higher up the pitch and with a faster tempo without the fear of getting caught out. The partnership struck with Koscielny was very fruitful displayed by the dominant performance over Diego Costa at the Emirates. He is also very adept at bringing the ball out from the back shown by his 82% pass accuracy and can is a threat from corners. However, he needs to be much more cautious in challenges as he picked up 11 yellow cards last season.
RIGHT CENTRE BACK: LAURENT KOSCIELNY
First things first, Koscielny’s achilles injury is a real concern. He revealed in May that he is going to need daily treatment for the rest of his career to ensure that he continues playing. With the Europa League in the equation now, he may be asked to play two games in 3 days along with long-distance travelling which he may not be capable of doing. However, despite all that, he is by far the best defender at the club and an automatic starter whenever he can play. A leader at the back with the respect of the whole team, he should be starting whenever he can. With the 2nd most interceptions in the league last term (90) and with the most over the past four seasons (406), Koscielny is a key part of any success the club wishes to have moving forward.
RIGHT WING BACK: HECTOR BELLERIN
When Hector is on song and performing at his best, a case can be made for him being the best right back in the league. However, his performances have the tendency to be very inconsistent and that partnered with his very poor final delivery. But, now unsullied by the prospect of being shifted around the defence to accommodate Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bellerin can allow his game to come to full fruition and focus on becoming a better player. Since the start of this new season, Hector’s delivery and performance seem to have come on leaps and bounds and is looking like the player he was when he broke into the first team.
THE BACKUP OPTIONS
Calum Chambers (Positions: CB, RWB) – Chambers has all the quality to succeed at Arsenal. He has the height, build and pace to be a very good centre back. However, playing time may be at a premium for Chambers due to the other centre backs at the club. Wenger should definitely aim to let Chambers on loan again to a Premier League team and look to bring him back next season due to Mertesacker retiring. VERDICT: USEFUL (But needs playing time)
Mathieu Debuchy (Positions: RWB) – No need to dwell on this, has been overtaken by Bellerin and the Ox, probably won’t see the field very much and should be looking to move on. VERDICT: NOT GOOD ENOUGH
Per Mertesacker (Position: CB) – Very clear that best days are behind him and won’t see much time on the field. However, being the club captain, his value is going to be most felt in the dressing room and will be a tool to galvanise the team in a way that Wenger may not be able to. VERDICT: USEFUL (Dressing Room)
Rob Holding (Position: CB) – The young Englishmen saw much more game time than he was expecting last season. After being thrust into the fire, he performed admirably when given the chance and will prove to be viable cover when called upon by Wenger