Arsene Wenger has ruled out the prospect of signing a new centre-back this summer, insisting he has a plethora of quality options in the position already.
The Gunners may have displayed some of the most vibrant attacking football this season, but will finish well behind the more pragmatic champions Chelsea.
Arsenal's defence has, at times, appeared frail and easy to beat, the perfect example being when they went in at half time at the Britannia Stadium trailing Stoke City 3-0.
An upturn in form coincided with the emergence of Francis Coquelin, whose presence in the side suggested that Wenger was now favouring a more rigid system to a fluid one.
But Wenger believes Arsenal can retain their culture of beautiful football and still challenge Chelsea next season. He sees no reason to abandon one of his strongest principles.
You stay beautiful
“Why not? We have done it before,” he told The Times. “Manchester United have won it playing that way. Plenty of teams have done it. It’s not necessarily the type of game you play, it is how well you play it.
"For example, you don’t question Barcelona about the way they play football. But when they started this way you questioned, ‘Are they not too naive?’ But when they win, you don’t question it.”
There were also suggestions that Arsenal would look to sign a world-class centre-back in the summer with the likes of Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels being linked.
But while Manchester United can go on spending big, Arsenal must still stay conservative in the transfer market. As a result, Wenger will not look to strengthen in the defensive areas, pointing to the versatility of his full-backs as well as the emergence of Calum Chambers as reasons.
“[Mathieu] Debuchy can play there, [Nacho] Monreal can play there, so you can say we are not out to buy a central defender,” he said. “And Gabriel will be a great central defender. So we have now sorted out the centre backs.
“I believe that Calum Chambers will be a centre back, more than a right back, and I want to develop him more as a centre back, even a central midfielder. At the moment I have players who have more experience than he has, but in pre-season I will play him there.”
"Chambers played at right back against Swansea in November, in a match that ended 2-1 to the host team, and was given a tough time by Jefferson Montero, the Ecuador player.
“It did teach him,” Wenger said. “He’s an intelligent boy, he thinks about his game after — how he could have blocked him better, how he could have stopped the crosses and to read the game of your opponent is an important part for a defender.”
It would be easy to forget the struggles Arsenal had earlier this season. The Gunners have been in excellent form in the second half of the season, but their start to the campaign was far from perfect.
That was in part down to an injury to Laurent Koscielny, forcing Wenger to play Monreal at centre-back. While the Spaniard has been in good form in his favoured left-back position, he was regularly exposed as a centre-back.
Many critics suggested a centre-back signing in the summer transfer window would have helped Arsenal's title challenge. The arrival of Gabriel in January seemed to come too late to undo the damage.
Did Arsene Wenger cost Arsenal the Premier League by not buying a centre-back in the summer?
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