It's been a chaotic year in the Arsenal camp. Highs include the famous 2-1 victory over Barcelona in last season's Champions League and the inspiring 5-3 win over Chelsea. Lows include, well.. that cannot be summed up in a simple sentence.
After allowing the Carling Cup to be won by Birmingham was the customary exercise of completely falling apart and unravelling at the seams as Arsenal are in recent campaigns becoming famous for. They will often go from competing in all competitions to competing in none in the space of about 2 or 3 weeks these days. Many would attribute it to a defence that has been gutted of power and reliability ever since its members decided to either leave for richer clubs, were emotionally destroyed by Bobby Zamora, or just plain thought that a pitiful £55,000 a week was not worth turning up to work for.
However, there is hope in Arsene Wengers current set of 'kids', I feel. In Wojceich Szczesny we have found a keeper whose reflexes, presence, and overall, consistency are reminiscent of the great David Seaman.
Thomas Vermaelen, injured now, as I'm sure some feel is the norm in his few years at Arsenal, represents our most commanding, fearless and composed defender since Sol Campbell was the rock of the Arsenal back four. If he manages to stay fit for a decent stretch then he will be vital for Arsenal in a defensive (and also an attacking) sense.
Laurent Koscielny is (along with RVP of course) our player of the season so far in my humble opinion. His ability to read the game and make vital interceptions has saved Arsenal from conceding on countless occasions. His strength and determination has also shone through in Arsenal's increasingly make-shift back line. If he continues to improve then he really will deserve to wear Tony Adams' number six shirt.
Currently our first choice full-backs are on the operating table, but when fit, Sagna and Gibbs provide a potent attacking threat and decent defensive coverage. Gibbs needs to work on getting back a bit more, as does his understudy Andre Santos, though he can be excused as it is in his Brazilian nature to be a forward-thinking defender.
With these players fit on a consistent basis, then Arsenal can begin to look more like the composed and solid defensive unit we remember from nearly a decade ago.
What needs to be addressed is that much better cover needs to be made available. Mertesacker and Jenkinson look completely lost and out of their depth when they play. Mertesacker is not used to the pace and physicality of the English game and Jenkinson looks like what he is, a player that barely made an impression in League One. Djourou had moments last season when he looked quite solid at the back, and he is a more consistent choice at right-back than Jenkinson, but he is still caught out of position too commonly and doesn't read the game as cleverly as his peers. He needs to improve fast if he wants to survive in the team, he's had more than enough time to do it.
I'm going to finish by saying welcome back to King Thierry Henry. I'd take him over Marouane 'I promise I was good for Bordeaux' Chamakh and Yao 'Maybe if I dribble into a player he'll disappear' Gervinho any day. :)