Defensive stability is the base for next season

Posted by Sam Limbert

Premier LeagueAssociatedLaurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have formed a strong partnership at the back for Arsenal.

Of all the former players to have some strong views on Arsenal, Tony Adams arguably should be listened to with the most respect when he speaks about the club. After being a one-club man and one of the greatest captains in Arsenal’s history, it is undeniable that the club runs through his veins. However some of his recent words about the way things are run at boardroom level seemed slightly strange.

It is completely understandable that Adams is willing to do anything to help the club, however with no boardroom experience, it would be difficult for the club to make him chairman of the club, as he suggested in a recent interview.

If not fully qualified to talk about the upper reaches of the club’s hierarchy, Adams is definitely capable of talking about the team's defence. It was criticised by many during 2012-13, but those critics were increasingly quiet as the season went on with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny building an excellent partnership, one praised by the former captain. Adams compared the styles of Martin Keown and Steve Bould, and how he had to adapt depending on who he was playing with, making consistency difficult.

Similarities can be seen with the chopping and changing of Mertesacker, Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen in the Arsenal defence because all three have different qualities as center backs. Mertesacker likes to have the play in front of him, Vermaelen tends to push forward looking to intercept the ball early and Koscielny relishes one-on-one situations with attackers. It’s good to have a variety of options in the squad, but for consistency, finding a regular formula is key.

Arsenal were finally able to do that in the latter stages of last season with Mertesacker and Koscielny performing well as a partnership, not just as individuals. When one pushed tight to an attacker, the other knew when to drop off and cover the space in behind the defence. Whilst Thomas Vermaelen can still contribute a lot to Arsenal as club captain, and on the pitch because form and fitness can be fragile things in football, the Mertesacker and Koscielny partnership has to be the base for Arsenal moving forward into next season.

The Gunners have made too many changes at the heart of their defence in recent seasons and haven’t been able to go into a campaign with a settled defensive partnership. That has often cost the Gunners early points because the understanding between players was still being built up. Now that it is already there between Mertesacker and Koscielny, Arsenal have to make use of it to ensure they start the season well.

One man who missed out on the center back chopping and changing last season was Johan Djourou. His Arsenal career has been through some strange periods as he’s ranged from being virtually the first- to the fourth-choice defender. The promise shown in 2010-11 hasn’t been fulfilled so it was no surprise to see him spend the second half of the season on loan. His performances in the Bundesliga at Hannover seem to have been good enough to spark interest from other German teams. For the sake of both Djourou and Arsenal, hopefully a deal can be done so as the Swiss international can get regular club football. With the sudden strength of Arsenal’s defensive duo, it’s almost impossible to see Djourou forcing his way back into regular first-team contention at the club.

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