Arsenal defence "They do not have a centre-back of prominence at the club. Sokratis, Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz are just simply not good enough."
Friday 19 June 2020 16:27, UK
Charlie Nicholas has slammed Arsenal's leaky defence, and says the priority must be to sign defenders, with as many as 10 players who could be sold.
Arsenal got their under-par Premier League season back under way on Wednesday night, losing 3-0 at Manchester City, meaning Mikel Arteta's side sit ninth, with just nine wins from 29 games.
It was another defensive 'disasterclass' from David Luiz, who made an error for City's opener, then gave away a penalty and was sent off, and Nicholas believes it is "mind-blowing" that Arsenal have not yet sorted out their defensive issues...
"Wednesday was what I expected. The one scenario I did not expect was the team which Mikel Arteta picked. Mesut Ozil was dropped - he has been dropped before in these types of games. He went for youth and he can see where the future is," said Nicholas.
"I do not see it as a massive debate or crisis for Arsenal. They are ninth for a reason. There is a reason behind just the nine wins from 29. Over the last five or six years, Arsenal's defence has been poor, not average, but poor. How a team can let this go on for so long is mind-blowing.
"The fans pointed the finger at Arsene Wenger. Wenger identified the defenders he needed and they became silkier, in football terms, after arriving, but for five seasons, Arsenal cannot seem to find a centre-half - for all the centre-backs in the world they cannot find one.
They have been focusing on playing out with the ball and not any of the other defending necessities. It has been going on for an unbelievable amount of time, for a club at this level. Bernd Leno is a great goalkeeper but he has no protection, they could have lost 7-0 if it wasn't for him.
"Hector Bellerin has pace but he has not recovered probably. They do not have a centre-back of prominence at the club. Sokratis, Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz are just simply not good enough.
"They spent around £8m on David Luiz, who has won the Premier League and the Champions League. The craziness is that he was better than what was already there. That should show those players just how bad it is and also how bad it is for Arteta.
"Kieran Tierney cost £25m but is not yet fit, we have no centre-backs, Sead Kolasinac cannot defend either. Arteta has inherited this team, and it has been a disaster defensively. Pablo Mari is not the answer I don't think. If you have to sell Luiz, Sokratis, Mustafi, Ozil to get him off the wage bill, Kolasinac too, then do it.
"Take the money for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang if the right amount comes in, and sell Granit Xhaka as well. There are 10 players Arsenal could sell. It goes into a fund to get more defenders. All the best teams in principle have the best structure and they resolve their defensive issues. Liverpool paid big money for Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, and they paid £8m for Andy Roberson, who has pace and quality.
"There is nothing to say that it will take years. The board and owners do not have years as the crowd will turn on them if they do not identify that the defence is everything. It is the area that matters right now. If they do not address it they will get further and further away from it. This is a must. Whoever you must sell, the funds must go on defenders, and you start building again.
"Perhaps not of the Van Dijk stature, but someone who is strong and has pace in defence would suffice. They have to be prepared to put their neck on the line. You look at David Luiz, he comes on with 15 minutes gone and is tying his lace with Arteta trying to talk to him. He didn't even look interested about coming on. I think he was happier when he got sent off. Everything was his fault.
"Arteta, your defence is everything. Whatever you get budget-wise, you must buy defenders. You need another right-back, two or three central defenders, it is a defensive job that is needed. Once you get that, you can say Arsenal will improve, to what level, perhaps the top four? They will always score goals and have pace in attack but the strategy has to be to sort out the defence and then add to it. The same old I suppose.
"Eddie Nketiah looked sharp but then could not get the service. I would not have any hesitation about him starting against Brighton. He has put muscle on, and his link-up play was not bad for all he got.
"Aubameyang has to shake a leg. He either wants to stay or he does not. Why not go and win the Golden Boot for yourself?"