With the injury to Laurent Koscielny during Arsenal’s pre-season tour to Japan and Vermaelen out for 3 months with a back injury, the need for a back up defender has apparently seen Arsenal re-new their interest in Ashley Williams. But is the Welsh captain a suitable fit for the Champions League side?
In recent years Arsenal have struggled defensively as silly mistakes cost the Gunners valuable points over the season, thus derailing a chance of a title challenge. The recruitment of Steve Bould to the first team coaching staff last summer saw Arsenal start the season with 3 clean sheets in the first 3 games, but mistakes came back to haunt them yet again.
Ashley Williams on the other hand has been a defensive rock for Swansea, and was one of the reasons why the Welsh club have an impressive home defensive record since they returned to the top flight.
Unsurprisingly, Williams is no stranger to possession football that Arsenal have been known for in the last decade. The defender had a pass completion rate of 86% at Swansea last season compared to Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Koscielny who ended the season with 91%, 86% and 83% respectively. Whilst this isn’t the main priority to look for in a defender it’s important for the way that Arsenal play – Ashley Williams fits this perfectly.
Williams has the ability and know how to pass the ball short to midfield and also to play the ball long to wingers, something that he did accurately an average of 5.7 times per game. With the pace of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain Arsenal are always dangerous on the counter attack, so having a player who is able to pick them out accurately from defence to utilise this would be a welcome addition to the side.
On a defensive side Williams’ tackling success decreased by 3% to 72% last season, yet was still more impressive than Mertesacker’s 67% – a low percentage due to his difficulty with pace leading to hopeful slide tackles that didn’t always pay off and saw the defender dribbled past on 14 occassions.
A strong part of Williams’ defensive ability is intercepting play and blocking shots, which is important when playing a higher defensive line or the opposition looks to attack on the counter. The Swansea defender made 124 interceptions which is 67 more achieved by any Arsenal central defender last season.
After making 1 only defensive error in his first season in the Premier League Swansea fans saw Williams 5 defensive errors last season – 3 of which resulted in a goal for the opponent. Only Vermaelen, who had a poor season, made more errors out than Williams in the Arsenal squad with 6.
Ashley Williams’ all round play and years of playing a similar style of football at Swansea City would see him slot into the Arsenal defence with ease and offer good competition to the current players. However, if Arsene Wenger wants to sign a defender who is an upgrade on what he currently has to work with then Williams might not be the right option to opt for.
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