Arsenal’s Double Signing To Secure Defensive Future
When it became apparent that Bacary Sagna would not be staying at Arsenal emotions amongst the faithful ranged from mildly perturbed, to genuinely timorous to downright panic-stricken over our defensive future and the potential of undoing the hard work of the past few years. Arsenal has laid foundations for the future with new commercial deals elevating them to the big boy table in terms of transfers and finally winning a trophy again. Losing a player like Sagna, arguably the best and most consistent right back in the Premier League of the past 7 years would be an issue for any club but with a seeming lack of replacements on the market it looked to be potentially devastating for Arsenal.
It was clear to many that Carl Jenkinson was not ready to take over from Sagna on a full-term basis and all eyes appeared to be on young Serge Aurier whose uncanny playing resemblance to Sagna ignited a hot yearning for the Ivory Coast international. There were a few dissenting voices who claimed he was too young and green for English football to take over from Sagna but the general consensus was this was the man for us.
Losing Sagna wasn’t just about losing a top quality centre-back, we were also losing a pretty decent auxiliary centre-back so in effect were losing two players. How was Arsene Wenger going to address this? Our new financial firepower is something quite a few are still coming to terms with but before the end of the World Cup, to some, it just seemed like another display of frugality from our famously economic manager and faith that Sagna would be replaced as well as required additions being made was waning.
The announcement of Alexis Sanchez changed a few perceptions but the question of “can we remain defensively competitive” seemed to be unanswered. Serge Aurier looked to be going elsewhere despite spending most of the summer flirting with Arsenal supporters on Instagram with “come and get me” eyes and poolside photos of him in an Arsenal shirt – boy did he look good in an Arsenal shirt.
However, Arsene Wenger, like so often, had different ideas and, like so often, his ideas look to be the right ones.
In July Arsenal announced the signing of Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle United as Sagna’s replacement and handed him the famous number two shirt. Soon after Arsenal agreed a deal worth up to £16m for ex-Southampton starlet, Calum Chambers, in a bold move for a largely unproven young player but one with a little Premier League experience and another product of the excellent Southampton Academy that produced current Arsenal stars, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The signing of Chambers raised two very important questions at Arsenal. Firstly, what would happen to the boy through whom most of us live our fading and deluded hopes of playing for our beloved club; Carl Jenkinson? Secondly, and probably most importantly of all, what will Chambers’ nickname be as Chambo has already been taken? The conundrum keeps me awake most nights with taunting sniggers as my brain attempts to navigate the murky waters of simple yet pertinent monikers. If it doesn’t keep me awake it corrupts my slumber, pulls me through horrific dream sequences before dousing me in cold sweat and forcing me awake with a violent lurch and a blood-curdling scream.
Debuchy’s signature was met with general delight from the Arsenal support however there have been a few pondering aloud the cost of signing Debuchy and Chambers as opposed to keeping Sagna for a few more years. Especially when that money could be spent on a defensive midfielder or striker so many crave and believe was the difference between us winning the double last year instead of just the FA Cup. I would argue the loss of Ramsey and Walcott put paid to our title ambitions more than the lack of a new striker or defensive midfielder and any new signings this summer are about improvement and strengthening rather than addressing an urgent need but that is a discussion for another time.
If tabloid reports are to be believed then Arsenal have spent close to £28m in signing two players to replace Sagna and whilst that may seem expensive it pales in comparison to what would have been spent on loyalty bonuses, increased wages, agents fees and eventual replacement had Sagna stayed a while longer. Chambers is only going to get better and had we moved for him in 2-3 years time his purchase fee would easily have doubled.
Debuchy is the perfect signing in many ways because he has experience of the league and usurped Sagna in the French national team. When Kevin Keegan signed David James to replace David Seaman he rhetorically asked who better to replace the former England number 1 than the current England number1. People will have their own opinion on Keegan but regardless, he makes a good point. Who better to replace our outgoing French national right back than the man who has replaced him in the national team?
Two years Sagna’s junior, Debuchy will be a regular asset to the Arsenal starting eleven for up to 5 years. This is plenty of time to usher in the era of Jenkinson or Bellerin as first choice right back. I am not a huge fan of loaning out players who are already an essential part of the first team set up as understudy to an ageing lead performer like Jenkinson was to Sagna but I believe we have loaned him to probably the best place possible.
Jenkinson is a fantastic athlete who arguably needs game time to progress but also probably needs to improve his defensive positioning and awareness. Loaning him to another London club in the Premier League, where he is almost guaranteed to start every week, is only going to benefit Arsenal. He is close enough to watch regularly, not just in matches but training also.
When a loan looked to be on the cards I was secretly hoping for Crystal Palace or West Ham. Both have managers for whom no love is lost amongst the Arsenal supporters for various reasons but both managers are ones I can tactically respect. I am not a fan of overly defensive football but both Allardyce and Pulis know how to set up their teams to defend and under either managers tutelage Jenkinson would have learned bundles about defensive positioning and set plays. With his height, knowing how to better defend a set piece would be a boon to Arsenal.
As it so happened, Jenkinson has joined West Ham on a season long loan deal and their counter-attacking style will probably suit the development of Carl. He should improve defensively but West Ham’s tactics will ask him to do a lot of offensive work and improve his crossing. Carl’s crossing is arguably one of his strongest points but it’s an asset Arsenal rarely take advantage of. Playing week in week out will hopefully give Carl the awareness of when to cross and when not to cross and this will be advantageous to Arsenal when they need to find a way into the box in a scrappy match.
So what of Carl’s position as understudy? That is where Chambers comes in. Here is a player who does have experience of playing regularly in that position in the Premier League and he will be ideal back up to Debuchy but more than that he will also replace Sagna as our fourth centre-back. When Jenkinson returns from his loan a better player Chambers will most likely drop off the right back radar and be focused entirely on his future as a centre-back or defensive midfielder.
Chambers’ versatility will remain an asset to Arsenal and his exposure to the first team as a right back will enable a smoother transition to future first choice centre-back.
By signing Debuchy and Chambers, and then loaning out Jenkinson, Arsene has partially secured the defensive future of Arsenal with three of the four outfield defensive positions filled with English players. The re-“nationalisation” of Arsenal has continued with Chambers and the signings of Debuchy and Sanchez shows a continued willingness to complement the British core with top class imported talent.
The future of Arsenal looks more secure than ever and £28m on replacing Sagna looks to be a top investment by Wenger that will pay dividends for the next decade. That is frugality at its finest.
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