Football Expert & Columnist
Jamie Carragher: Arsenal need more - and pacier - defenders in January
Gunners can't rely on just six senior stoppers, says Sky Sports expert
Last Updated: 07/11/14 10:44am
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher will be right here each week to cast his expert eye over the forthcoming Premier League games.
The Liverpool legend will have his say on the players, managers and stories surrounding Sky's live fixtures – and in this column, he discusses the two Super Sunday clashes: Swansea-Arsenal and West Brom-Newcastle.
So read on for his thoughts on why Arsenal must bolster their backline, Swansea hitman Wilfried Bony, Saido Berahino's England call-up, and why Newcastle are in a quandary...
Arsenal’s defending has come under scrutiny after they surrendered a three-goal lead to draw 3-3 with Anderlecht in the Champions League. Is that still their biggest area of weakness?
CARRA SAYS: Arsenal have been a side over recent years that concede a lot of goals and not much has changed this year really. I stated at the start of the season that they lacked big players through the spine of the team and I think we will see evidence of that as the season goes on. They’ve still got some great players in attacking areas but there are issues at the back, partly tactically and partly individual. When you are 3-0 up at home with half an hour to go and end up drawing that is generally tactical but most goals can be attributed to individual errors so that’s something they need to work on and improve.
Around this time last year people were saying Arsenal needed to sign a new striker. Is another defender their priority this time around?
CARRA SAYS: Whether they are conceding goals or racking up clean sheets, Arsenal need another defender – probably two. Numbers-wise they are very low in that department, with Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Kieran Gibbs, Calum Chambers and the currently-injured Mathieu Debuchy the only established players. You can’t really expect to get through a whole season with that few players and with Thomas Vermaelen going in the summer, I think they need another centre-back to come in, preferably one with pace. I also think they could do with a bit more speed in central midfield but strengthening at the back is key for them at the moment.
With Theo Walcott coming back, though, pace doesn’t appear to be an issue at the other end of the park, does it?
CARRA SAYS: No, it doesn’t. They are still packed full of quick and creative players and are probably better than last season in that department with the additions of Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck. Alexis has got most of the goals in recent weeks but I have been impressed with Welbeck’s link-up play and the way he creates space for his team-mates. Chamberlain has had his moments, too, and with Walcott as an option, probably from the bench for the next few weeks at least, Arsenal will continue to keep us on the edge of our seat – but I guess that is also down to them struggling to find the right balance between attack and defence in some games.
Wilfried Bony was linked with Arsenal over the summer, amongst other clubs. Are you surprised he is still at Swansea?
I watched him last week in Swansea’s game with Everton at Goodison Park and his hold-up play was fantastic.
Carra on Wilfried Bony
CARRA SAYS: His form this season, coming off the back of his 16-goal campaign last year, has been pretty decent. He’s on four goals already and when I watched him last week in Swansea’s game with Everton at Goodison Park his hold-up play was fantastic. I think he has quite a steep buyout clause in his Swansea contract and wages could come into it, too, so perhaps that’s why a bigger club hasn’t taken a punt. If he carries on in a good vein of form, though, he will generate interest because he has power, pace and is a real focal point you can build your team around.
Swansea’s Nathan Dyer is not in the England squad, West Brom’s Saido Berhaino is. Right calls?
CARRA SAYS: A few of the Swansea lads have been mentioned – Jonjo Shelvey earned a call-up for the last squad – but competition is very fierce in those attacking midfield and wide spots, especially now that Stewart Downing has rediscovered his form and got back in. I’m sure Dyer will be disappointed but he just needs to keep on working and wait for his chance. I think Berahino deserves his chance as he is the top English goal scorer and someone who is a constant menace in games but perhaps the edge he has over someone like Dyer is that he is a member of the Under-21 team. I’m sure the senior staff will have been well briefed by Gareth Southgate on Berahino’s qualities.
Berahino and his West Brom team-mates will be up against an in-form Newcastle on Super Sunday. What have you made of the Magpies’ turnaround?
CARRA SAYS: I think it’s great. I think everyone in the league – perhaps not Sunderland! – wants Newcastle to do well because they are a proper club with fantastic support. They have taken some big scalps in this four-game winning run – Man City in the Capital One Cup, Tottenham and Liverpool in the Premier League – but that has tended to be Alan Pardew’s way throughout his managerial career. The big test for Newcastle now, though, is to win a game they are expected to win. Will they carry on with the counter-attacking style of recent matches or because the possession against West Brom could be more evenly split, will they mix it up? It should be an interesting game.
Watch West Brom v Newcastle (1.30pm) and Swansea v Arsenal (3.30pm), live on Super Sunday on Sky Sports 1.