Arsenal’s Defensive Disaster: Should Wenger Now Start Havard Nordtveit?
November 28, 2010 8 Comments
As Arsenal ended the 2009/2010 campaign without the refreshing, rewarding presence of a trophy, manager Arsene Wenger vowed to implement changes into his youthful squad in hopes of reinforcing a stronger title challenge for next season.
Critics and fans alike believed the goalkeeper position was the most glaring in need of change. Since Jens Lehman departure in 2008, the Gunners have failed to boast a quality, reliable presence between the sticks. Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski had tried gallantly and were occasionally brilliant, but both had a tendency to make vital errors on a consistent basis.
However, Wenger was unable to attract a quality keeping presence, but the Frenchman was tremendously active in terms of defensive reinforcements. So as 2010-11 commenced, all felt that once again Arsenal’s keeping conundrum would be the main reason to their eventual failure.
But, surprisingly, it has not been the case. Manuel Almunia began the season in solid fashion before a persistent elbow injury has seen the Spaniard absent since September. Deputy Lukasz Fabianski has been superb in Almunia’s absence, proving his capability as a dominant keeper.
The Polish shot-stopper has shown great composure and consistency since being elevated to the No. 1 role and has all but diminished Arsenal’s keeping woes. Yet despite the revival of Arsenal’s keepers, Wenger’s defence has been the focal point of their demises this season.
The French tactician worked tirelessly during the summer on his back line. William Gallas, Mikael Silvestre, Philippe Senderos, Sol Campbell and Kerrea Gilbert were all declined for contract extension despite boasting over 700 Premier League caps.
Wenger defensive line, particularly the centre half regime, was undernourished but the Frenchman was able to secure the signings of little known Frenchman Laurent Koscienly from French outfit Lorient FC for £10 million. Whilst former Lyon defender Sebastien Squillaci arrived from Spanish giants Seville for £3.2 million.
The two centre halves joined Thomas Vermaelen, the defensive leader, and Johan Djourou, who had missed all but the final game of 2009-10, as the central defenders. Vermaelen, touted as Arsenal premier defender, suffered a persistent ankle injury in August and has failed to feature since.
Johan Djourou has easily been the most impressive of the defensive, especially as the imposing Swiss only recently returned to full fitness. However the two summer signings have failed to impress, particularly Laurent Koscienly.
The pair partnered one another for Arsenal’s shock loss to rivals Tottenham on Saturday and are one of the predominant reasons Tottehnam were able to come from 2-0 down and succeed. Squillaci has performed credibly throughout the season and in Vermaelen’s absence has formed a strong partnership with Djourou, but at 30, the Frenchman lacks the speed so desperately vital in the Premier League.
Koscienly, on the other hand, has just looked frail and out of place at times. Particularly during the second half against
Tottenham, the 25-year-old was caught out of position and out-muscled too easily in the air. Furthermore, the Frenchman has already conceded to red cards in his short cameo.
Albeit the former Lorient defender has potential and at times shows great promise, but is it time for Wenger to turn to a younger source?
Touted as one of the best young defensive prospects in Europe, Havard Nordtveit has spent the last three seasons on loan with UD Salamanca in Spain, Lillestrom SK in Norway and finally a hugely impressive spell with German giants FC Nuremburg last season.
Signed in 2007 from Norwegian outfit FK Haugesund, the 20-year-old is yet to make his Arsenal debut but does boast sufficient experience thanks to various loan spells.
Blessed with impressive strength and composure as a defender, Nordtveit speed and control enable him to fulfill roles all across the defensive line, as well as a defensive and central midfielder.
However, Nordtveit is most comfortable as a central defender, as well as on the right. This season Wenger has been tentative to use his exciting array of young talent, even in the Carling Cup, thus ensuring the Norwegian starlet has been unable to prove his worth.
But with Vermaelen’s estimated return still unclear, Arsenal will need to shore up their defensive line if they want to keep their title aspirations alive.
Should Havard Nordtveit be considered?
By Elisha Shamba
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