What absolutely tragic news for poor old Laurent Koscielny. Yesterday Didier Deschamps confirmed that our number one centre half would miss the World Cup and when you consider his age profile, as well as the problems he’s had with his achilles in recent years, this is a crushing blow for one of our most consistent performers in the last five or so years.
The World Cup is a pinnacle of a players career and given that when the next one rolls around he will be 36 and probably retired given his recent injury problems, it means this would have been his last World Cup.
What this injury also does is have wider implications because a ruptured achilles is usually at minimum six months out and that means that even if Koscielny had some kind of miracle recovery, he’s probably not going to be match fit for seven or eight months, which takes you to December or January and by then the 2018/19 season will be halfway through.
What it does is bring into stark contrast just what sort of job the new manager has and with Koscielny already unable to play more than once a week anyway due to the problems in his achilles that he’s had, it i’m not dealing in hyperbole when I say that we may never see him return to the same player again and he may not even be a first team regular at Arsenal ever again. That is a sad prospect mainly because somebody who has given so many year’s to the club should be given a decent send off when he leaves but I fear Koscielny’s Arsenal career is probably now hanging by a thread. Just think of it logically if you’re the new manager; you’ve got a player out for half of the season and when he does come back, it’s not going to be until February until he’s back to full fitness, but even then he may not be the same.
It means that the new manager will essentially need to be telling Sven et al that the priority for this summer is an overhaul in the back line. Nacho Monreal is 32, Big Per is retiring, Koscielny is out for most of next season, Bellerin has looked poor, Mustafi is the most inconsistent and erratic defender we’ve seen at the club in decades, David Ospina will probably be off in search of game time, whilst Petr Cech is a dwindling force at 35. In short – this Arsenal defence needs a massive overhaul in the summer.
The initial signs with Mavropanos are good and I liked what I saw from Chambers on Thursday night. He didn’t look overawed by the situation. That’s a good thing because I don’t think we’ll be seeing the new man coning in and signing two centre halves. I suspect he’ll be told that he has to make it work with Chambers, Holding, Mavropanos, Mustafi, then potentially one more signing. I have a feeling that Holding might go out on loan next season though. I don’t have any specific intel, just a feeling, but if that did happen then almost certainly you’d need a player coming in and that player needs to be a talker. I don’t know about you but I’m getting sick of seeing this Arsenal back line not communicate with each other. When you’re in the ground it becomes even more obvious. Big Per had his obvious limitations but he was a talker and he delivered in a composed manner that helped other players around him. Koscielny has never been a talker, Mustafi only talks when he’s moaning at the world after he himself has been the one that made a mistake, so we are seriously deficient in a proper organiser in that defence.
That’s why I am hoping that whoever comes in can identify that and get Sven to cough up an experienced and organised centre half. We would never get him but imagine a Godin marshalling that defence. It would probably bring a minimum of 20% more from every other defender.
But if the stories of the new man only having £50million to spend are accurate, it does mean that there is going to need to be some miracle work pulled out of the bag by the scouting network, because this team isn’t a team that is good enough to just add one player and be done with it. We are in desperate need of a better ‘keeper. You only have to look at De Gea in the game we lost to United at the Emirates at, or Oblak for Atleti, to see that a top class ‘keeper can keep you in games and be a real last line of defence. We haven’t had one of those in a while. Tech was decent enough in his first season but he wasn’t at the same level of some of the ‘keepers we see in the top European competitions these days.
So let’s do some maths here. We probably need a new centre half. We probably need a new ‘keeper. We also should be buying another right back to rotate Bellerin out every once in a while. I haven’t even got to the midfield which, let’s be honest, needs somebody who can cover ground and screen our back four. If we want to be truly competitive in the league next season we need at least three first choice starting XI signings, plus a squad player right back. Doing the math doesn’t exactly fill me with glee. That’s £50million for four players in a market where one right back can be brought for that price.
Quite simply, for me, it means that the younger players in this Arsenal team are going to get given chances and they have to take it. Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Mavropanos, Willock; we need to get them game time between now and the end of the season because when August swings around they’re going to need to be battle-hardened to the Premier League.
I hope Arsene is looking at that too and realising that we need to be giving these guys games now. The remaining games mean nothing and as his final act as manager he should be leaving the squad in a position here we can at least feel that we have some good young players coming through that could make the step up.
Lt’s see what he does on Sunday and for our final two away games.
Catch you all tomorrow.