It’s not often that Arséne Wenger and RedNose Fergie agree on things, but as the dust settled after their recent showdown that never was, I noticed that both of them were talking about the same thing, albeit in slightly different ways.
Wenger made it clear that there were few differences between Arsenal and M*nure going forward – the difference was at the back, since we conceded 13 goals more than our northern rivals.
Fergie said in the Sunday Times recently that "quality at centre-back is fundamental" and who could argue with him? It's something we miss. (Then again, so did he in Rome when Vidic left his form at home and allowed himself to be turned inside out by Eto'o).
I saw a statistic on Sky recently which showed that with William Gallas in the side, Arsenal conceded less than half a goal a game on average and since he got injured, we have conceded something like one and a half goals.
Let’s be honest, we weren’t truly competitive with Willie, but without him, it’s almost no wonder the unit conceded four against Liverpool, four against Ch*vski and three against M*nure.
I don’t know what Wenger things of Johann Djourou, who could become a fine central defender. Certainly his compatriot, Big Phil Senderos has played his last game for the club, given that Wenger said that while Armand Traore is to return to the club, the AC Milan loanee’s future is less certain.
So that leaves us with four central defenders.
The future of Gallas is uncertain. After falling out with his team mates earlier in the season and being stripped of the captaincy, I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves. He is one of the top three highest earners at the club as well and with just a year left on his contract, perhaps now is the time to cash in.
The fact that Mikael Silvestre was dropped in place of a defensive midfielder says to me that he too has proved to be an experiment too far. Whether he will stay or go, I do not know, but certainly he is not the long term future of the club.
Kolo Toure has improved of late, getting somewhere close to the form he showed before the African Cup of Nations last year.
But with another ACN looming next winter, even of the other three defenders remain, that leaves us with very little (especially considering that Alex Song will be on ACN duty as well).
So, I think we can safely say that a centre back will be Wenger’s priority in the summer.
A tall, uncompromising, hard-tackling, fast and elegant reader of the game, preferably about 24-27 would be perfect.
Brede Hangeland? Sebastien Bassong? Micah Richards? Gary Cahill?
The news today is of Gareth Barry, who could fill in as a defender or midfielder. The problem is that Barry is English and so will cost much more than his true worth. And at 28, he only has three years left before he starts to slow right down.
Any of the above would be perfect, even Richards who has everything necessary to be a world class player apart from present form.
Somehow, I suspect Wenger may sign someone none of us have heard of or who has slipped under the radar of other big clubs.
But whoever it is, expect a new face lining up in defence for Arsenal next season.