Losing to Fulham to start 2012 hurt but it has hopefully served as a wakeup call for Arsene Wenger that his side cannot continue to challenge for the top four without recognised fullbacks. The regulars are out injured and have been for a considerable time. Kieran Gibbs, Andre Santos and Carl Jenkinson are on the treatment table for the foreseeable future so now the January transfer window is open, Wenger must invest.
The reliable Bacary Sagna returning to training is a huge boost for the Gunners, having lost the French full back in October after breaking his ankle against Spurs, but he isn’t expected to play for three weeks. Thomas Vermaelen is out for a couple of weeks and the underperforming Johan Djourou is now suspended following his dismissal at Craven Cottage. The defensive situation is looking bleak for Wenger, so what are the current options? Well Laurent Koscielny has filled in at right back before but is drastically improving in the middle and deserves his chance instead of the woeful Mertesacker once Vermaelen returns.
Micquel is a talented youngster but suits a central role and must be used as back up to gain experience whereas Sebastian Squillaci must be offloaded in January after some horrifying performances. That leaves no cover for Wenger on the right and Coquelin coped well at Fulham at fullback but is clearly a central midfielder.
If Arsenal are serious about challenging for silverware this campaign and qualifying for the Champions League, then a strong back line must be established before we lose more ground on the front runners. A proposed loan deal isn’t sufficient due to lack of options but in Wenger’s defence there isn’t a plethora of quality fullbacks out there to sign in the current market. Purchases were left far too late in the summer and panic buying must be avoided. For instance Wayne Bridge has been rumoured as a possible signing but he struggled at West Ham on loan last season and is lacking match fitness.
Yes the former England left back has experience but he has clearly lost his pace and his motivations for football are questioned when he has stayed on the sidelines for Man City for so long without trying to engineer a move away from the Eithad Stadium. Stealing Gary Cahill from under Chelsea’s nose would be an astute move as Koscielny could cover on the right until Jenkinson returns to compete with Sagna. Alex from Chelsea and Raul Albiol from Real Madrid could fit a similar purpose as they are capable of playing in numerous positions at the back.
Otherwise Leighton Baines from Everton is a stand out target. Everton need money to invest in their squad and the left back has been in fine form in recent seasons, earning England caps along the way. The combination of Sagna and Baines on the flanks would be one of the best in the Premiership but will Wenger have the will to spend big to shore up his defence? Let’s hope so.