Is Arsenal’s ‘new-look’ defence already secured?

Is Arsenal’s new and improved defence already under their nose? After weeks of concern, there are positives for the Gunners if you look hard enough.

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Arsenal bounced back from two straight defeats upon football’s restart with credible away victories at Southampton and Sheffield United, with some impressive defensive performances from Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney.

With William Saliba also hotly tipped to make an impact for Arsenal from next season following his £27m move from Saint-Etienne, and Hector Bellerin first-choice right-back, Mikel Arteta may not require the defensive overhaul some had assumed.

Arsenal have also secured David Luiz for another year, and completed the permanent signings of centre-back Pablo Mari and full-back Cedric Soares last week.

The Sky Sports Football Weekend Review podcast discuss Arsenal’s defensive options, along with the thoughts of Sky Sports pundit and former Arsenal striker Alan Smith…

‘Holding, Tierney… the positives are there’

Gerard Brand on the Sky Sports Football Weekend Review podcast:

“Against Sheffield United there were still some scary moments that may have gone punished from a side with more confidence, but there are some positives emerging from the Arsenal defence.

“Rob Holding was MOTM against Saints; he did the simple things simply, which may seem basic but is still an improvement, and what really impressed me was the way he commanded the defence and pushed them up when Arsenal attacked, which reduces that gap between midfield and defence we’ve seen so often. I also think he’s a decent passer into midfield and gets the game going quickly.

“Kieran Tierney was also impressive against Sheffield United, so the positives are there, but there is a long, long way to go. There’s no doubt there is plenty of work to be done.”

‘Early signs suggest little defensive spending’

Roger Clarke on the Sky Sports Football Weekend Review podcast:

“The message from Arsenal for the last few transfer windows has been: ‘We’re not spending big… there isn’t much money around,’ and when you look at what they’ve done already, securing David Luiz’s contract, Pablo Mari is injured, but they’ve secured him too, and Cedric Soares has come in on a free, so there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of money around.

“Are they going to go out and spend big money on a new centre-half? A new full-back? Are they going to do that when they’ve already made three permanent signings?

“Arsenal fans will be hoping they do, but with everything we’ve seen and heard of Arsenal over the years, it doesn’t feel like there is going to be a lot of money thrown around.”

‘Arsenal can’t buy ready-made talent’

Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith was full of praise for Holding after his man-of-the-match display at Southampton, and the former Arsenal man believes Arteta’s job is to improve what he already has…

“I gave Holding man of the match against Southampton, and I think longer term he is someone Mikel Arteta can work with. He’s young, has a good attitude, and has the good makings of a centre-half. He used three at the back again, which seems to give him some stability.

“Tierney is the big plus point; he’s been unlucky with injury since arriving at the club, but he strikes me as an old-school type defender, a young lad that will only get better.

“There’s obviously loads to do at Arsenal, a great deal to do, but as with any good team you have to start from the back, and that’s what Arteta will be trying to do to give them some stability in results. I think under Arteta they have shown a bit more steel and backbone at times, but it’s a long old job.

“Of course Saliba is going to arrive at the club before too long, and from what I hear, scouts at Europe’s biggest clubs can’t believe he escaped the net, they can’t believe they didn’t get him instead of Arsenal, so that bodes well. He’s been excellent for St Etienne in the [Virgil] van Dijk mold, in terms of his ability on the ball.

“I think it’s the way forward for Arsenal; they can’t buy ready-made talent, they need to nurture players and improve them on the training field, which I believe Arteta can do.

“Players with potential like Saliba, Tierney, Holding, plus Bellerin can get better, so they are the back four as well as those other characters you’ve got; Luiz, Sokratis [Papastathopoulos], [Shkodran] Mustafi, so there is something to go on there. You just want them to have a free run now, without injury problems.”

(c) Sky Sports 2020: Is Arsenal’s ‘new-look’ defence already secured?

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