Five days to go: why can't Arsenal find our promised new defender?

By Graham McNorthbank

At the time of writing this there are less than five days to go before the January transfer window closes and Arsenal's opportunity to strengthen the squad for the run in disappears.

So tell me, what happened to the club's insistence that we would sign a defender to provide extra cover for the problematic centre back situation?

To be fair to Arsene Wenger and his defenders, despite the long term injury to Thomas Vermaelen and the various knocks, strains and, in the case of Laurent Koscielny, suspensions to our other central defenders, the team has coped well.

Indeed, rather than being the leaky defence us Gooners all talk about, in relation to our top four rivals in the Premier League there isn't a lot of difference: Arsenal have conceded 22 so far, Man United are barely better with 21, Citeh have shipped 20 and Chelsea have the best defensive record in the league with 19 against.

I surprised myself with that stat, to be honest.

More to the point, the Gunners are now getting into the habit of keeping clean sheets. That may have more to do with the confidence that Wojciech Szczesny instills in the back line, than anything else, but the fact is we have improved and so far in 2011 we've had five clean sheets and only three goals against. At the other end, we've scored 16!

The impressive form of Johan Djourou also has much to do with that record. The young Swiss stopper has been magnificent lately and the understanding he has developed with Koscielny is very encouraging. I have to admit that I always thought Djourou would simply be a squad player, but his performances in the past couple of months deservedly place him in the first team proper.

But don't forget that Djourou has only just returned from a very lengthy period on the sidelines (he made just one appearance last season and that was off the bench), so expecting him to play twice a week for the rest of the season is unrealistic.

Squillaci is no spring chicken and could pick up knocks and niggles, as might Koscielny, but while other players are given the luxury of several weeks to recover from a broken fingernail, our central defenders will likely have to carry injuries if there is no back up signing.

And given Arsenal's track record with mystery injuries, is anyone 100% confident that Vermaelen will be match fit anytime soon?

Sure we are in one final, but as Le Gaffer keeps on reminding us, we still have a fighting chance in all four competitions this season, so why on earth with just days left in which to bring in a defender are we dawdling?

It would be great to rest our central defenders against Huddersfield this weekend, but the simple truth is we can't. Squillaci apparently has a chance of making the squad, but if he isn't ready there is no choice - Koscielny and Djourou is all we have.

And just a gentle reminder, if one of that pair picks up an injury, there's a very real danger that we could line up against the best strikeforce in Europe on February 16 with midfielders shoring up our back four, or half-fit defenders battling to stifle Lionel Messi.

The injury to Bacary Sagna on Tuesday should be ringing alarm bells.

The bottom line is I no longer care if we opt for a short-term solution. A world class, international would obviously be preferable, but something is better than nothing, surely.

Those of you who have been visiting Arsenal Addict for a while will have heard me voice this point before, but wasn't the whole concept of the club mothballing Highbury to allow us to compete with the biggest clubs in Europe?

Wenger's stubborn attitude is sometimes admirable when it comes to putting his faith in existing players, but when it comes to the centre back dilemma, there will be no excuses if it all goes pear-shaped.

My faith in Wenger and the way he sets his team up is immense, but it ends when it comes to our dealings in the transfer market.

Last season we won nothing and we had SIX centre backs in the squad. This year we have just four to choose from - the best of whom has played only three games and that was five months ago.

Wenger says he is looking but hasn't had any luck in finding the right player, despite last year's claim that more than 200 players had expressed an interest in coming to the Emirates.

And if you don't want to blame Le Boss, consider this: Arsenal's scouts are paid a lot of money. If they cannot find a defender who is willing to come and play for a team involved in Champions League football, then I'd be amazed. So what is the issue??