Paul Scholes believes the acquisition of more defenders of repute is imperative for Arsene Wenger given the way the Arsenal manager’s tactics leave his centre-backs exposed, with Per Mertesacker a particular concern.
Champions League lesson
Arsenal were outclassed, outrun and undone by Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday night, with the Germans cruising to victory and the visitors fortunate to escape the Westfalenstadion with only a two-goal defeat.
Time after time the BVB attackers were able to slice through the Arsenal midfield which left their central defenders on their heels for almost the entirety of the encounter. It was certainly a testing evening for Mertesacker, the club’s vice-captain, and partner Laurent Koscielny.
Arsenal’s failings at set-pieces had been cause for concern earlier in this fledgling season, but the way in which they were made to look vulnerable every time Dortmund pressed forward with pace will be a real worry.
And, says Scholes, this lesson handed out by their Bundesliga opponents served to reinforce that it is a must for Wenger to add to his defensive options in the January transfer window, having failed to do so competently in the summer.
“Arsenal need more quality defenders, too,” the Manchester United legend wrote in the Evening Standard.
“Especially given that Wenger encourages his full-backs to play so high up the pitch. It puts extra pressure on the centre-backs and Per Mertesacker in particular.”
The departure of Thomas Vermaelen for Barcelona in July left Arsenal with only Mertesacker and Koscielny as their senior central defenders, but Wenger was unable to, or perhaps chose not to, recruit another experienced player.
Calum Chambers was signed from Southampton and, while the teenager has proved himself a composed and solid performer, there was a clear need to add a player of greater standing to the Arsenal ranks.
But, alas, it did not transpire. There was also a glaring need for a natural holding midfielder, something that became more apparent during the defeat to Dortmund, but Wenger again failed on this front.
Sami Khedira and William Carvalho were both linked with a move to the club, but rather it has been Mikel Arteta - the newly-appointed captain - who has been tasked with filling in this position, which he finds far from natural.
“Mikel Arteta is a nice footballer and does his best in an unfamiliar role but he is not a defensive midfielder,” said Scholes on the issue, which sums it up quite nicely. And given what he achieved during his illustrious Manchester United career, the Old Trafford icon ought to know.
But, unfortunately for Arsenal supporters, the January transfer window, and an opportunity to fill the holes they can see so blatantly, is some distance away.