If Arsenal sign Williams who's the first-choice centre-back pair?

Arsenal are understood to be close to agreeing a fee with Swansea over the sale of their captain Ashley Williams.

The Wales centre-back had a fine season for the Swans this term and was undoubtedly one of the best central defenders in the Premier League.

The 28-year-old is a strong, powerful and dominant presence in Swansea’s back line but should he end up swapping the Liberty Stadium for the Emirates Stadium this summer, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger would have a selection dilemma.

Williams was one of (if not the) best central defenders in the English top tier this term and whilst Arsenal’s defensive record in 2012 was poor, their unbeaten run towards the back end of the season was better than any other club in the league in 2013.

Wenger dropped his captain Thomas Vermaelen before the Gunners trip to the Allianz Arena in their final Champions League fixture with eventual champions Bayern Munich – a game they won 2-0 – and the pairing the boss picked for that game remained first choice for the rest of the season.

Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker seemed to have developed a strong and capable understanding – the Frenchman tends to come out quick to attack potential danger whilst the elder and slower German giant tenders to sit back deeper and read the game.

Whilst Vermaelen’s form was the poorest I’ve seen in an Arsenal shirt this season, he’s still a quality defender and Wenger will not have forgotten that. His pairing with Koscielny has not really been that effective over the years, however, and it seems more appropriate that either Vermaelen or Koscielny are better when they pair up with the German.

Together the Koscielny and the skipper seem to be a recipe for disaster and calamity but Mertesacker’s calm and cool presence seems to offset their game when he plays alongside either of them.

So, what would happen if Wenger signs Ashley Williams? Would Koscielny and Mertesacker remain the preferred pairing? Why would Wenger bring in such a quality player and leave him on the bench? What about the captain?

The options would be Koscielny-Mertesacker, Koscielny-Vermaelen, Koscielny-Williams, Mertesacker-Vermaelen, Mertesacker-Williams, or Vermaelen-Williams.

Based on merit and achievement this term, the first option ought to be the first choice, surely and then, given the previous calamities of the second option, that should be last choice.

As a player, in terms of style and mentality, Williams is probably most similar to Mertesacker, therefore, if they were all fit, Wenger would probably be best off rotating Koscielny and Vermaelen with Mertesacker and Williams.

As far a selection headaches go, this one would be welcomed by the boss and the fans alike, I’m sure.

Whilst the current trio were all fit and available for the manager for the majority of the season, that’s unlikely to be the case on a permanent basis – injuries and suspensions are inevitable and, if Arsenal add Williams to the mix, Wenger would have four fantastic options to bring in and out of his back line.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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