Having had time to reflect upon the late dropping of two valuable points at Wigan, a few things have become clearer and I think there are some painful home truths that can no longer be ignored. Before I vent some steam I should make it clear that I am a big fan of Arsene Wenger and would not want anyone else managing our club. However this does not mean Arsene does not make mistakes and sometimes no matter how great you are, you must appreciate where you are going wrong to change direction for the better.
Our defensive solidity has been sadly lacking this season. We have conceded too many goals, a lot of these have been from set pieces and we have let some big leads slip. There are several reasons for this and one Arsene recently openly admitted was the lack of leadership at the centre of our defence. The prolonged absence of Mr Vermaelen has been a problem, he is one of our more motivating and vocal players, while the combination of Koscielyn and Squillaci has not been convincing. The goalkeeping position has also been a huge problem area, although Fabianski has improved, many still doubt his ability to command the penalty box.
A big problem related to a lot that has gone wrong is Arsene's stubbornness and the fact that he gives certain special players many more chances than others. Lucasz Fabianski would have been shipped out of many clubs by now, although we have seen how Arsene's faith has been rewarded by his recent improved showings, it is very questionable as to whether Fabianski will ever be good enough to be our long term no1 keeper who can bring us trophies. Personally I can only see Fabianski going so far, and it is hopefully only a matter of time before Szczesny takes his place as our no1 goalkeeper.
Johan Djourou has been impressive all season long but it has taken him a remarkably long time to cement himself in as a potential first choice player. After yet another excellent display against Chelsea he must surely be considered our best fit centre back, it is rather strange that it has taken him this long given his performances, maybe part of it has been that his return has been graduated due to his prolonged absence with the knee injury. The lack of a commanding centre back against Wigan clearly played its part in our late capitulation.
The midfield has been the main problem area for a very long time now. Essentially we have lost a lot of excellent combative players over a relatively short time frame (Gilberto, Flamini, Diarra) and never properly replaced them. We now have a squad with a lot of attacking technical midfielders but very very few players who can run around and get stuck in. Against Chelsea we saw the importance of the bustling and fighting midfield play of Song and Wilshere, you simply must have players doing the harrying and the pressing, you also need players who will not be beaten easily and who will keep chasing back no matter what.
We are ok when both Song and Wilshere play, the problem comes when either one of them or both are not in the side. Their replacements are simply not up to the task. Denilson is a decent all rounder, not bad at anything but not really good enough at anything either, certainly his defensive game is nowhere near good enough to play as a deep midfielder. Diaby is an enigma, a great talent but he has no natural instinct for defending or pressing, he lacks the tempo and drive to be a defensive midfielder that can be relied upon, really he is an attacking central midfielder, the problem is that he is not as good as Cesc and is very rarely played in his proper role. The rest of our midfielders are just attacking players like Nasri, Cesc, Arshavin, Walcott and Rosicky. Ramsey is a good all rounder and when fit can add a bit more drive than the likes of Denilson and Diaby, Frimpong's cruciate was also an unfortunate one at a bad time.
Overall I do think that Arsene has a special place in his heart for Denilson and Diaby, and somehow I have a sneaking feel that their performances haven't really justified his faith in them. The same is probably also true for Carlos Vela but that's another story. The problem is that Arsene's slightly blind faith has left us painfully short of balls in the midfield department and this was obvious against Wigan on Wednesday night. Realistically we should have brought in a solid midfielder in the summer, we knew Frimpong was out for the season, we knew Ramsey would be gone for months and we knew that neither Denilson or Diaby can defend reliably. A lot of focus has been put on the 8 changes from the Chelsea to the Wigan game, personally it wasn't the '8' that was important, it was the fact that we had no solid midfielders to come into the mix for Song and Wilshere. Arguably we could have done with a Fabrice Muambe type on Wednesday night, one that Arsene may well end up regretting he let slip.
There are so many problems with our defense that it is hard to address them all at once, that's my excuse for waffling on like this anyway. What is clear though is the fact that Arsene Wenger needs to stand up and take notice of the fact that our defence is not up to it, he has to do something about it. Certainly an element of this must be done with more time spent drilling the defence on the training ground, another big element is adjusting the playing staff in the squad so that we have the right mix of attributes in order to be able to put out an organised defensive unit with a midfield that can sheild it adequately. Arsene needs to work hard on the defence, if he doesn't we'll be seeing more defensive capitulations like Wednesday's.