Arsene Wenger is not known for big spending during transfer windows. That is evident again this summer, with Gervinho the only big money signing so far in the summer months.
As always, there are rumors of other targets joining the club including Juan Manuel Mata and a few Premier League center backs, but the losses for the club might outweigh anything brought in this off-season. The ongoing Cesc saga still lingers and the Nasri situation might not bode well for Arsenal, according to recent reports. This is all after Clichy was sold to Man City.
Left Back Gap
Wenger has not yet invested in another left back in the absence of Clichy, who last year logged almost 3,000 minutes of a possible 3,616 and started 34 matches for the squad at left back.
The general consensus is that Wenger might be counting on his tried and true method of filling the spot with youngsters that have come through the ranks, much like he did when Clichy replaced Ashley Cole.
The two obvious choices to fill the left side are English international Kieran Gibbs and Frenchman Armand Traore. Other options for Wenger would include Thomas Vermaelen drifting wide from his center back position on occasion.
The catch with Gibbs and Traore though is the lack of quality minutes spent with the first team as Clichy has held the spot steady for the past few years.
The 21 year old appeared in seven Premier League matches while starting four in replace of Clichy due to injuries. Gibbs has gained a reputation himself for being injury prone.
Both Wenger and Fabio Capello though see promise in Gibbs despite his lack of health. He has been with the club since 2004 after going through the youth academy and has played at every national team level since 2007.
Gibbs, though, only saw 345 minutes of action last season and in that time won over 50% of possession and aerial duels, was dribbled past twice and was part of conceding eight goals. In comparison Clichy also won over 50% of duels, was dribbled past 26 times and was part of conceding 33 goals.
Gibbs’ numbers extrapolated with Clichy’s aren’t far off except the goals conceded, which was a major problem for Arsenal last year sans Vermaelen anyway.
The difference between Clichy and Gibbs right now is that Gibbs is four years younger and has been pegged to be the successor of the 30-year-old Cole for the senior national team. Arsenal might miss a beat or two employing the young Gibbs at left back this season due to youth, but in the long run the spot is promising for Gibbs. The problem is that Arsenal needs to win now and can not wait for Gibbs.
Traore spent last season on loan to Juventus and saw 10 appearances and seven as a starter on the left side.
Also 21, he has been called upon as the third option at left back in years past for Arsenal.
He gives Wenger another young option to build upon towards the future but again; the problem lies in just that, with Arsenal fans expecting trophies now. They have grown tired of building for the future.
It remains to be seen what Traore has gained from his time in Italy, but he could provide good competition and relief to Gibbs this year. Both are still very young and inexperienced though.
That is where Thomas Vermaelen could come in.
Before arriving to London in 2009, Vermaelen was a left back for Ajax. According to a 2009 Telegraph report by Duncan White, Steve Rowley scouted him in Holland at the left back position in big losses to PSV Eindhoven and Sparta Rotterdam. Despite the team conceding 10 goals in those games, Rowley had found a capable replacement for Kolo Toure.
The Belgium international won Arsenal fans over in his first season, starting 33 Premier League matches and scoring seven goals while partnering at the center back spot with William Gallas.
Following his successful season debut, Vermaelen missed all but five Premier League matches last year due to a nagging Achilles problem. He finished out the final two games and is expected to be ready this year, as he has already captained a friendly in Malaysia this summer.
If Gibbs and Traore struggle with injuries or performance early on, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Wenger use Vermaelen on the left, especially if Arsenal brings in another strong center back.
Either way this Arsenal squad needs to tighten up in the back. They have allowed 30 or more goals every season since the Invincibles of 03/04 and last year Arsenal conceded 43 goals, the most since 99/00.
Best-case scenario would be the problems in back would be solved with the return of Vermaelen and Clichy’s absence will go unnoticed. If Gibbs or Traore show their youth though, Wenger should not be afraid to look for a veteran left back this winter.