Is Suarez a distraction from defence?

Posted by Sam Limbert

Understandably, most of the transfer headlines about Arsenal this summer have centred on Luis Suarez. It's not every summer that you see Arsene Wenger bidding (just) over £40m for a player! However, with this protracted saga at forefront of most minds, there could be a risk that other areas of the squad that need improvement are being ignored.

- Smith: No lessons learned from Suarez history

Arsenal undoubtedly need a striker. Despite the good form of Olivier Giroud in the preseason, it was clear last season that a clinical and reliable central striker would have the potential to move Arsenal up the league. One should have been signed in January, so to see Arsenal seemingly go all out to sign a lead front man in this transfer window is encouraging. However, it shouldn't completely detract from the growing shortage of numbers at the back.

In a couple of long overdue moves, Sebastien Squillaci finally left the club this summer and Johan Djourou went out on loan. I doubt many Arsenal fans were disappointed to see those two go, but it does mean that the club is short on numbers at centre back. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were excellent at the end of last season so Wenger would be ill-advised to sign anyone to break up that pair. An additional squad player, though, would give the Gunners the depth they need as the season approaches.

There had been speculation that Thomas Vermaelen would become the third centre back to leave the club this summer. However, his recent injury ended those thoughts since he would be difficult to sell given that he'll miss the start of the season. His form wasn't always good last season, but he's still an excellent centre back to have in the squad. His injury, though, does mean that there is a significant lack of depth behind Mertesacker and Koscielny.

One saving grace for Arsenal is that this could be the season in which Ignasi Miquel steps up from the youth setup to play more of a part in the first team. The Spaniard has appeared in cup matches for three seasons, but with the departures of Squillaci and Djourou and the injury to Vermaelen, he's the only regular centre back in the squad behind the first two. He's also played at left back in a lot of the preseason tour matches so far to cover for the injured Nacho Monreal. He's still a raw talent, but as a fourth or fifth choice centre back, Miquel could be the reason why the Gunners have been reluctant to invest in another centre back so far this summer.

However, this does mean that there is a lot of pressure on Mertesacker and Koscielny going into the new season. Koscielny missed the last preseason game with a slight injury, which again highlighted the thin nature of the squad. One other backup option is Bacary Sagna, who has appeared at centre back a few times in preseason after playing in the middle as an emergency at Sunderland last season. He has performed well there, but doubts remain because he's been a full back his entire career. The move also implies a growing faith in Carl Jenkinson as a right back.

It seems like Arsenal are making do with what they've got while they focus on Suarez. For everyone involved, the sooner the Suarez deal is sorted out, the sooner this increasingly ugly saga can stop occupying the minds of supporters and club officials and the sooner the other areas of the squad can be addressed. The Arsenal defence improved a lot last year, so it would be careless of the club not to add depth and rely on only two centre backs going into the new campaign.


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