The long line of exemplary defenders at our club is an illustrious one.
Perhaps the finest defensive unit these shores have ever seen – Winterburn, Adams, Bould/Keown and Dixon – are the most well known exponents of the fine art of defending. But we have plenty of others who have worn our red and white and wouldn’t look out of place in an all-time Hall of Fame.
Kenny Sansom, Frank McClintock, Peter Simpson, David O’Leary, Peter Storey, Pat Rice – just some of the luminaries who could export their talents to the modern day stage.
We have a history of fine defending – but in recent years we have been pretty starved of that kind of service. The best we have had in the last decade has been current Academy boss Per Mertesacker and Frenchman Laurent Koscielny. Those two aside, none have exactly covered themselves in glory – and the jury is out on the current crop.
The stories are circulating about possible new recruits, and a lot of the names doing the rounds are defenders. Mikel Arteta could be looking to overhaul the backline – but who stays and who goes?
In terms of full-backs, we seem to actually be in good health. Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney have no real doubts surrounding their actual level – it is just their fitness that seems to cast a shroud over their ability to do the business for us. In backup, we have the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Bukayo Saka – both of these youngsters’ futures don’t lie in these positions but they have proved they can provide more than able backup should the fitness of our Spaniard and Scot be compromised.
But in centre-backs, we could see some shift. Before his injury, Calum Chambers was probably the best of the bunch. Commanding and taking responsibility, it didn’t matter who his partner was, he was delivering the goods.
Rob Holding took some time to regain full fitness, but before the hiatus on football, it didn’t seem as if he had the full confidence of Arteta, with sporadic starts at best.
Sokratis and David Luiz have had the lion’s share of starts between them, but age is not on the side of the Brazilian – although he has been our most consistent thus far – along with a surprise name.
The German has gone from castaway in our squad to showing exactly why he has a World-Cup winner’s medal in his cabinet. Mustafi has revived his Arsenal career – and could well keep his place on this form.
Pablo Mari comes with a great set of references from his time in Brazil and deserves a season to settle – and that goes without even mentioning seeing his best form.
We seem to have decent numbers but next season we could well see a fair amount of shift in terms of personnel. Can any of these players lift themselves to the level that befits our former defensive titans?
The jury is judging right now – who stays and who goes?