Our summer transfer activity rightfully created a buzz for this season.
After having our optimism dampened by continuous articles surrounding our meagre budget, the players captured by the club – with some help by our impressive backroom team – were enough to lift the spirits and the hope around our fanbase.
Not easy to do after the way last season ended.
The season has now been underway for a fair amount of time, and results have been decent, but not mindblowing, but it’s easy to forget that we are still operating at less than full capacity.
None of our rivals have our problem. The majority of their key players are in the team and slowly wearing away their ring rust. Us? We’ve missed an entire defence.
The backline is conspicuously our weak link. Our midfield can adapt with the personnel to combat different threats, and our frontline is amongst the most potent in the league.
Our four (or five dependant on the approach taken by Unai Emery) has been in dire need of reinforcements and is operating without definite first choice personnel.
With Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney all absent through injury, we have no doubt been hampered – and who else could claim otherwise? Even the likes of Man City would find room for at least Hector Bellerin. Pep is well known for his love of a roving wing-back – and Bellerin certainly fits that bill.
The players who have come in to fill the void have done admirably. Ainsley Maitland-Niles has shown he is a worthy member of our squad who has plenty in his locker. The combination of Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac have both played at left-back but with Monreal now at Real Socidead, it leaves the attacking Kolasinac as our only recognised left-sided player – meaning Tierney’s return can’t come soon enough.
Then there is our centre-back predicament. Our club captain Koscielny has now left the club, we have future prospect William Saliba back at St Etienne and we couldn’t manage to sell Shkodran Mustafi for love nor money.
It has left us with the granite-tough Sokratis, the returning from loan Chambers and new boy David Luiz.
This isn’t the worst talent pool we have had to pick from in recent years, but when you recall how Holding was performing before his long-term injury struck him down – and how quickly he had adapted to Emery’s tactical changes – it shows that not only will he most likely find himself straight back in the team when he finds his feet – but how badly we miss him.
Could other teams cope with missing three of their first choice defenders?
Could Liverpool manage without Virgil Van Dijk, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold?
What about City and Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker and Zinchenko?
One at a time, maybe two at most, but all three?
We have been unable to push forward with our plans at the speed we should be. Unai Emery must be commended with coping without this talented trio and keeping us competitive and at the fighting end. It would be easy to stumble and drop points like it was going out of fashion, but it is noticeable that we have not needed to point at our missing players. We’ve simply got on with things and earned results when we’ve needed to.
Of course, our attack has bailed us out at times, but isn’t it testament to our squad depth that we are where we are, without three of our first choice defenders?
For the first time in countless seasons, we now have the substance in our squad pool to contend with the numerous injuries that befall an Arsenal squad. We now have ample cover and players who are malleable enough to mould themselves how Emery requires them.
It will take a few months until we see the best of Holding, Bellerin and Tierney. When they are fit though, we have a first eleven to challenge for honours.
I mean, just look at how well we’ve done without them…