Arsenal can not risk a repeat of Sebastien Squillaci

I have long held the opinion that Arsenal will only sign one centre back this summer.

With Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Calum Chambers, Rob  Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos set to be joined in Islington by Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 7 into 2 does not go.

There is an argument that we should sell to buy. That Shkodran Mustafi will leave the club and be replaced, but this does not make me comfortable.

The two names heavily linked are Caglar Soyuncu and Benjamin Pavard, both 22.

With Laurent Koscielny out injured until 2019, it would be very risky to try and integrate a new first choice centre back pairing without having senior back up.

Buying from a new country is always uncertain, even somewhere like Germany where the style and quality of football is very similar to the Premier League.

If Arsenal made the decision to try and integrate Sokratis alongside either Soyuncu or Pavard, without having a senior back up, the risks would be great.

If one struggles to settle – like when Sebastien Squillaci flopped upon moving from Spain (he was just 30-years-old at the time), we need to ensure we have adequate back up. Holding, Chambers and Mavropanos are not adequate back up.

The summer we signed Squillaci, we also secured the services of Laurent Koscielny.

The French pair were added to a squad that contained Thomas Vermaalen and Johan Djourou.

The Belgian had been at the club for a year (and had not yet broken down) and Djourou at 23 was showing himself to be one of the best young centre backs in the league.

In Squillaci we secured an experienced French international. Laurent Koscielny a bit of a risk – 24-years-old with just a single year of top flight football to his name.

However we could take that risk as we had Vermaalen in the squad.

Low-and-behold, Vermaalen broke down – playing just 5 games, and Squillaci failed to keep up with the pace of the game. This left us relying on Koscielny and Djoruou. The pair playing 80 games between them.

Now picture the scene.

Koscielny is out injured until 2019. Sokratis comes in and his Arsenal career replicates that of Squillaci. He flops.

We have sold Mustafi to make room for the new lad – lets say Soyuncu – and all of a sudden we are playing a 22 year old in his first season in England alongside Calum Chambers. And what happens if we get hit by the double wammy? That Soyuncu (or Pavard) also struggles?

At least with Mustafi, we know what we have. We might not be 100% sure on him, but he has been in England for 2 years, and would provide some sort of consistency.

And with Hector Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis and Saed Kolasinac not at the World Cup, they will get a full 8 weeks with Unai emery being coached, organised, and taught how to defend.

However, whilst watching France v Australia, and seeing Pavard play for the first team, a solution came to mind.

With both Pavard and Soyuncu being 22, they would not be getting signed for now, but also with one eye on the future – the next 8 – 10 years.

Last season Arsenal played 60 games. This season I imagine it will be similar.

That means there is plenty of game time to justify paying the money for a new, young centre back.

Instead of coming in to partner Sokratis, they will be coming in to compete with Mustafi to partner him.

They struggle to settle straight away, it means the senior partnership of Mustafi and Sokratis starts. If they come in and fly, it would mean that Mustafi is relegate to that second choice.

But this would still leave us with 7 centre backs for 2 positions.

We can write off Koscielny. January 2019 is the earliest he will be back to fitness. And that is if there are no complications with his Achilles injury. It would not be too much of a surprise to me if we never see him in an Arsenal shirt again – with his contract expiring in 2020.

That means we still need to shed one. Either Chambers, Holding or Mavropanos.

Reports are that Fulham are interested in Calum Chambers, with prices mooted about of £20m.

Watching Pavard play, out of position at right back, he certainly looks like an upgrade on the Englishman. Soyuncu is as well.

By trading in Chambers for £20m, and signing one of the others for £35m seems like a good deal. An additional £15m spent on a better player.

We would then have Mustafi and Sokratis as first choice centre backs, and Soyuncu / Pavard alongside Rob Holding as the second string players, getting game time in the League Cup and Europa League.

A lot of people will now be moaning about Mavropanos.

Let’s remember he is still just 20-years-old and people calling for him to be considered after just 3 games need to give him the chance.

I would rather Mavropanos remain in and around the squad for the first 6 months, giving us a 5th centre back option. Then if Koscielny does return in 2019, Mavropanos perhaps go’s out on loan for the rest of the season.

That will then leave us with 5 options going into 2019/21.

Sokratis (who will then be 31), Soyuncu / Pavard (23), Mustafi (27), Holding (23) & Mavropanos (21)

A decision could then be made next summer on the future of Mustafi.

If he steps up to the plate and improves alongside a consistent leader like Sokratis, he stays. If he shows himself adequate enough (and is happy being) 3rd choice centre back, that is fine as well.

If he fails to improve, and Arsenal decide to cash in, they at least then know about Sokratis and the new guy, and if one hasn’t fully settled, look to buy another centre back next summer.

Whilst I am still not comfortable someone coming in this summer to replace Mustafi in the summer, I am certainly not against bringing in someone who will bridge the skills gap between Holding / Chambers / Mavropanos and Sokratis, even if that means that one of the 3 youngsters ends up making way.



Stuff is happening at The Arsenal

Things are happening at Arsenal. Lots of things.

A friend said to me earlier in the week “let’s review when the window shuts” but I am bored. So let’s review now.

Bernd Leno has joined the club from Bayern Leverkusen. He is expected to come in as number one with Petr Cech relegated to second choice.

David Ospina will make way with Matt Macey stepping up to be 3rd choice. Macey is important as you do not really want your 3rd choice keeper to take up a home grown place.


The first choice defence (as is) next season is set to be Héctor Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis and Nacho Monreal – the Greek man joining in July.

Second string back four is Stephan Lichtsteiner, Calum Chambers, Rob Holding Saed Kolasinac.

There is not much point discussing Laurent Koscielny as he is out until 2019, whilst Konstantinos Mavropanos is still just 20. He will remain part of the first team squad giving us a much needed 5th option – getting some Europa League time if someone ahead of him is out injured.

I would not be too surprised if Chambers left us with Caglar Soyuncu coming in.

As it stands, we look to have plenty of strength in depth in defence…

Bellerin Mustafi Sokratis Monreal
Lichtsteiner Chambers Holding Kolasinac
Koscielny Mavropanos

Looking at the players we have in the squad, 4321 looks the most suitable formation.

Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey will likely flank new boy Lucas Torreira (once the deal is done).

I expect Jack Wilshere to leave (note: this was written before he announced he was leaving). That leaves us with just Mohamed Elneny and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

5 midfielders for the positions. We are still one short. Whilst Joe Willock is a talent, next year might be a year too early for the 18 year old. He would get some game time in the Europa League, but Arsenal need to target an understudy for Aaron Ramsey – who has missed 15+ Premier League games in both of the last two seasons.

Xhaka Torreira Ramsey
Elneny AMN ???

The two behind the one wiote themselves. Mesut Ozil and Henrik Mkhitaryan. We also have Alex Iwobi. We need to fill the talent gap between Iwobi and Mkhitaryan.

I have a criteria:
Comfortable hugging the touch line
Technical enough to play inside
Better than Iwobi, and plenty of names.

Ozil Mkhitaryan
??? Iwobi

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Danny Welbeck are the best striking options in the league.

Welbeck might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I challenge you to name a better third choice striker.


That gives us a 22 man squad (AMN, Willock and Mavropanos need to be “declared”).

It also means we have 14 of 17 non home grown spaces filled.

Ultimately we can go out and buy another 3 players on top of Leno, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis & Torreira without consideration of their passport.

Another central midfielder to back-up Ramsey. Another attacking midfielder who can p;lay out wide. And potentially another central defender.

You can perhaps see why Iwobi and Welbeck are important, and why Arsenal should keep the fringe pair next season.

If Arsenal did “get rid” of them, we would have to replace them with other home grown players – or buy a home grown player in midfield (or not swap out Chambers).

Danny Welbeck has gone to the World Cup. Except for Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane & Marcus Rashford, there are no other strikers who are superior to him. And the names mentioned above would not join Arsenal to be 3rd choice behind Aubameyang and Lacazette.

Personally, I would keep both Iwobi and Welbeck. Send Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah on loan, with both young Englishmen become the potential home grown replacements for Iwobi and Welbeck.

What is clear is the new management trio are building a strong squad, and getting business done early.


Right time for Jack Wilshere to leave Arsenal

Fast on the back of Bernd Leno signing and Jens Lehmann announcing he is off, Jack Wilshere has released a statement regarding his future.

I think I speak on behalf of a lot of Arsenal fans when I say this is sad news, but also probably the right decision for all involved.

Jack Wilshere is now 26. Having joined the academy in 2001 at the age of 9, he made his debut 10 years ago – becoming Arsenal’s youngest ever league debutant at just 16 years and 256 days.

If back then you would have said that he would have played just 125 league games for Arsenal; I would have laughed.

By now, he really should have been captain. The heart beat of the team. Both The Arsenal and England.

Instead he finds himself at home rather than in Russia. And I think it is the snub by England that has left him to leave Arsenal.

Having missed Euro 2012 through injury, played just 2 games at the 2014 World Cup, and missed Euro 2016 through injury once again, he had got himself fit and ready to go to Russia. Gareth Southgate decided a lack of first team football and his injury record meant he missed the flight.

That means Wilshere has started just 1 game – a dead rubber against Costa Rica – in international tournament football. He made his debut at just 18.

I believe Wilshere when he says it was not about money. That he was happy with Arsenal’s financial offer.

At 26, he already has more money than he could dream of. He and his new wife and 3 children are already set up for life.

For Wilshere, he wants recognition. He wants to play regularly. To perform for club and perhaps now more importantly, country.

He wants first team football. The problem is, at Arsenal, we can not guarantee that. And not should we. I imagine this is what Unai Emery told him.

He is behind Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey, with Lucas Torreira also set to come in. He would be competing with Mohamed Elneny for a place on the bench.

Wilshere knows full well he will not get first team football, week in week out at Arsenal. He also knows he will not achieve this at the 5 sides above him. That means he will have to look down.

The likes of West Ham, Crystal Palace, Wolves and Southampton have already been linked. It might be harsh, but this is probably his level to be playing week in week out.

Southgate has shown by selecting the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Harry Maguire and Jake Livermore that it is important to be playing and performing in the Premier League, regardless of who you play for.

I sit in the SheWore WhatsApp group where we can not agree on anything. When the news broke of Wilshere’s statement, everyone was in agreement, it was the right decision for him.

Yeah he needs a new challenge. Love him but he was getting stale

Good luck to him wish him well

We have had many heated debates on here over him over the years but I think we probably all agree it’s the right time for him to go

Gutted he going but no doubt it’s right time for both parties

And I think that last one sums it all up. It is probably the right time for him to leave, for both himself and Arsenal.

The easy option would have been for him to stay at the club, sign a new deal, remain in his comfort zone. 20-30 games a season. But he still has a burning desire to perform, to play week in week out, to get to the top.

I imagine in his mind he is focusing on the next two years. Euro 2020. Would he be best positioned to make the squad as a bit part player at Arsenal?

Or would his best chance be to join Wolves or Crystal Palace, playing week in week out – and not doubling up in mid-week allowing his body to rest?

I hope he gets what he wants, what he deserves. And in 2020 I hope I will be cheering him on in and England shirt.

Jack Wilshere, you are proper Arsenal.