In my mind, there are two great Champions of the Premier League recently, Arsenal 2003/04, and Manchester United 2007/08.
Arsenal 2003/04 was arguably the greatest club team of all time, after going the entire league season without losing a single game. Manchester United 2007/08 had a great team that had one main key to victory: squad depth, and the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson could pick any player in any position and still win.
One attribute that both of these Champions share was a solid defense. Arsenal currently does not. In 2006/07, our main defensive weakness was set pieces. We have highly improved with that, and are even scoring off set pieces now! As Wenger has said now, our main weakness has been long, Route One balls down the middle.
The reason for this weakness is the fact that we don’t have a dominating defender, who can cut out balls left and right, in the air, on the ground, down the middle, on the side. Gallas and Toure are both identical defenders. They are both short, quick, good decision making, reliable defenders, but after two season together, we now know that they do not work as a pair.
Statistically, when 6’3, nonsense defender Phillippe Senderos played alongside Toure or Gallas, Arsenal’s defense was better. In his first spell of starts last year, from Blackburn, in August, to Sunderland, in October, Arsenal let in 5 goals in 11 games. And they didn’t lose. In his second spell, from West Ham in January, to Wigan in March, Arsenal, on much worse form, let in 7 goals in 15 games.
So when Senderos played, we let in less goals. When he played, from the 26 starts he had, he let in 12 goals. That’s less than half a goal a game. When Toure and Gallas started together, they let in 14 goals in 15 games. That is just not alright for a team of our stature. Without Senderos, imagine where we’d be. So for those of you who said that he is the reason of our downfall, he is not, he pretty much kept us in the Champions League for next season.
The moral of the story is, for a defensive partnership to work, you need a quick, footballing defender, and a no nonsense, brick wall of a defender. Whether that defender is Senderos or not, I don’t know. But the partnership of Toure and Gallas just isn’t going to work for Arsenal, and Gallas really has to leave the club.
In the entire attacking section of Arsenal we are fine. But with the exit of Flamini, we don’t have a good enough replacement in Diaby, Denilson, or Gilberto. We need a new defensive midfielder to replace Flamini. In my opinion we really shouldn’t have sold Diarra, if he were only a little more patient he would be starting now for Arsenal. That is our next issue, to sign a DM. Also we need to give Theo Walcott a starting spot if Hleb leaves, as he certainly deserves one, and has more goals that Hleb does, despite having half the starts.
If we get rid of Gallas, and get a new, quality DM, and start Walcott, we will be challengers next year.
If Nasri is signed it will probably be just for depth’s sake.