Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger looks set to suffer a season-long selection headache with his 1st choice pairing at the centre of his defence sees Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker, and Laurent Koscielny competing for their place on the team sheet.
The Gunners have come a long way since last season’s thrashing at Old Trafford, which saw them resort to a back four of second (and third) string youngsters in Jenkinson, Djourou, and Traore, along with Koscielny.
They lost 8-2 after a pitiful display and their title hopes never really recovered from that defeat. This season the Gunners have yet to lose a game and have only conceded two goals in the league after five games.
Per Mertesacker has been the standout performer at the back with a succession of dominant displays after what was clearly a tough start to his Premier League career last season. The 6ft6” German struggled to adjust to the Premier League and was often criticized for his lack of pace but has, so far this season, been solid and intelligent for Arsenal.
New captain Thomas Vermaelen returned to the team last season after a long spell out injured. His form, as a result, never really found consistency over the course of the season and he was found to be unusually error-prone.
This season, however, the Belgian international looks keen to atone and having been made club captain seems to have added an extra authority to his game as he leads his side by example.
Laurent Koscielny was, the United thrashing aside, Arsenal’s best defender last season. He grew into the Premier League after a shaky start in the previous season. His tackling was superb, making crucial blocks in the Arsenal penalty area and clearances off the goal line.
Although not the tallest, he also offers Arsenal a substantial aerial threat at the other end – he, like Vermaelen, is a danger from set pieces, and can punish side’s that fail to pick him up in the box.
Arsene Wenger must surely be ringing his hands, especially now that his new assistant Steve Bould seems to be bringing defence back to basics – and Gunners fans can surely look forward to a more solid season than the last, provided they stay fit, that is.
Who are your first choice centre-backs?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald