Replacing Koscielny: what is the future of Arsenal's defence?
Eventually, all great players need replacing. At Arsenal it has been said that failure to adequately replace such stalwarts as Adams, Vieira, Gilberto and more has held us back from achieving our true potential. Over the next few seasons we will face another challenge to replace some vital players lost to the ravages of time.
One such vital player is Laurent Koscielny. Our undisputed defensive leader has enjoyed a stellar career at Arsenal. Joining the club from humble beginnings in the French league our vice-captain has built up a collection of world-class strikers he keeps in his back pocket. It is clear that Arsenal's defence cannot cope without him as evinced in both maulings at the hands of Bayern Munich. However, Koscielny is not getting any younger and is getting towards the end of the so-called peak years. Sooner or later Arsenal will need to bring in a new defender to cope with the demands of the league as Koscielny fades into a Mertesacker-esque dressing room leadership role and offers mentorship and seniority to the rest of the squad.
So where does this leave Arsenal? Where do they start looking for a replacement for Koscielny. Could the answer already be within the boundaries of London Colney?
Gabriel arrived at Arsenal with a fair reputation and what looked like a bargain price tag. A lot of supporters were optimistic yet realistic about what he could bring to the squad in the short-term. This was clearly a player purchased to provide competition to the first choice defenders before seamlessly taking over.
Immediately we witnessed his enthusiasm and rawness in the few games he got as cover for Mertesacker and Koscielny. There were some mistakes but overall it was felt he would adapt to life in England after a year or so and show us his true potential. However, after a few more months he looked lost, out of place and ill-suited to the league. It's possible he did not have the right people around him to better settle and feel comfortable in London. Each opportunity he now gets in the side seems to be another example of why he will never be more than a squad player at Arsenal.
When a World Cup winning, German international defender becomes available it is a no-brainer signing. Mustafi slotted into the Arsenal defence as though he and Koscielny have played together for years. It didn't take long for them to cement their position as Arsenal's first choice pairing, earning the collective moniker 'Kostafi'. But did this affectionate term come too early? It would have been foolish to expect no adaptation period would be required. Despite many players making an instant impact on their first proper introduction to English football the long, hard seasons quickly catch up with you and many dip after Christmas or suffer from the infamous 'second season syndrome'. This season took its toll on Mustafi and errors crept into his game with rash decision and unnecessary fouls. Although the signs are already there that he is learning from this, maintaining the promise of Kostafi.
Aged just 24 years, Mustafi has already played four big football nations and gained a lot of experience. With a bit more time to adapt to the pace of Premier League, Mustafi is certain to be a big hit and a long-term fixture in the Gunners' defence.
Bought to Arsenal as a long-term prospect after a solid first season in the Premier League with Southampton, young Chambers has found himself on loan at Middlesbrough this season. His time at Arsenal is marked by some outstanding performances for a young player but equally some truly woeful showings. The majority of his games at Arsenal have been distinctly meh. However, for now he is doing well on Teeside but is still a few paces behind where he needs to be to make it at Arsenal.
The youngest of Arsenal's four 'junior' prospects, Rob Holding offers great promise. Potentially the best English defender of his age group, which includes talents such as Reece Oxford, Michael Keane, Adam Webster, Carter-Vickers, Dael Fry and Joe Gomez. He has always shown a lot of composure. He seems to be focused and rarely puts a foot wrong. He was not outstanding against Sutton United but the entire team was uninspiring against a motivated opposition on an unfamiliar pitch. Holding has a bright future in front of him and if he continues on his current trajectory he will partner Mustafi in the coming seasons at the heart of Arsenal's defence.
Perhaps it would be unfair to leave without mentioning the prodigal Krystian Bielik. Currently loaned to Birmingham, he has been transformed from being a defensive midfielder to a centre back just as Ben Sheaf is at Premier League 2 level. Both are still young and have time on their side as well as boasting a good passing range and ability to build play from the back. Let us see how they improve.
However, the defence are not alone responsible for the protection of our goal. Certainly our defenders can do more to keep things tight and allow the attackers to focus on winning the game but the midfield needs to shield them better. The biggest problem recently has been a lack of communication between defence and defensive midfield leaving our back line exposed.
The future of Arsenal's defence looks bright and there is enough talent in the club not to have to worry about external solutions to replace our ageing stars but our understudies would do well to work on their communication as part of their overall development.your own article on YouWrite?
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