The fact that Sol Campbell was able to manufacture a way of worming back into the Arsenal squad last season after terminating his contract with League Two outfit Notts County speaks volumes about the state of the London club’s current lack of quality defenders.
If Arsenal’s defence was a leaky dam last season, Sol Campbell’s arrival was greeted with all the uneasy embarrassment, fear and collective head-shaking near-by town folk would commit if the structural engineer returned to the dam with a flimsy dab of blu-tack. Unsurprisingly, Campbell looks set to undergo an unceremonious departure to the graveyard that is Scottish football.
With the blu-tack gone and William Gallas looking certain to join the departure list, the dam is going to need some significant bolstering if the Gunners are going to continue to compete for top honours.
German international, Per Mertesacker has signalled an intent to leave Werder Bremen this summer should the German side miss out on Champions League football. Yet while Arsene is keen on the 25-year-old, the deal looks unlikely following Klaus Allofs ‘hands-off’ rebuttal.
The mere whisper of Mertesacker’s name, however, should inspire some optimism amongst the Arsenal faithful: the German has 60 international caps and is well known for his clean tackling, robust demeanour and his superior heading ability. It’s a pedigree that Arsene will be wise to stick to.
Interest in Brede Hangeland – the perennial favourite to take up defensive duties at the Emirates – has subsided, but it would be inadvisable to rule out the Fulham centre-half at this stage. Wenger still rates the Norwegian international very highly but there are conflicting reports emanating from the Emirates surrounding a possible bid. The Arsenal manager could well be deterred by a slightly inflated asking price, not to mention the fact that the defender will enjoy his 29th birthday before he’s likely to join up with the club.
Conversely, Wenger will hardly be deterred by Gary Cahill’s age; the Englishman is only 24. Yet, despite his relative youth, Cahill is a seasoned campaigner and possesses the discipline and the determination that has been notably absent from Arsenal’s performances in the last couple of seasons. The downside is he’s a no nonsense player – had John Smith’s decided to recast, he’d be the one kicking the ball into celestial orbit; whether he’ll be confident enough to live by the Arsenal creed of building play up from the back is debatable. He’s also yet to win an international cap.
Reports have also suggested Arsenal could be lining up bids for Senegalese defender Pape Diakhate, 25, and Danish centre-back Simon Kjaer, 21. The two are far from household names, but they appear to fit the Wenger template. Remarkably however, Kjaer, who has also been linked with Tottenham, is reported to be asking for £100k-a-week while his transfer fee is currently secured at £10m; a deal that obviously wouldn’t go down well with Peter Hill-Wood.
Only Arsene will know who the primary candidates are but whoever they’re likely to be, he’ll have to act quickly and be prepared to do some serious spending if he is to take his finger out of the dam without calamitous consequences.
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