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Arsenal: Gunners Defense Will Stand in the Way of Challenges for Silverware

BEIJING, CHINA - JULY 27: Thomas Vermaelen of Arsenal FC controls the ball during the pre-season Asian Tour friendly match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Birds Nest Stadium on July 27, 2012 in Beijing, China.(Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Mikhail TurnerContributor IIIAugust 1, 2012

"Offense wins games, and defense wins championships" is a phrase Arsene Wenger and Arsenal should pay lots of attention to understanding.

Gooners everywhere have every right to be excited by the club's capture of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, the current saga with Robin van Persie notwithstanding, but the defense seems to be forgotten.

Looking at the current squad, Arsenal's defense is its weakest area on the pitch. This will be the Achilles heel for the squad again this season if changes, whether personnel or tactical, aren't made.

Arsenal is still being linked to attackers and midfielders this summer, but neglecting the most obvious weakness could be the club's downfall again next season.

The squad certainly has the depth in terms of bodies, but the quality is what's missing.

At right-back and centrally, the squad has three of the EPL's finest defenders—Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen—but they have yet to play a whole season together in their primary positions.

Even if that were to happen, the Gunners cannot rely on just three quality defenders to carry them through a whole season, especially when there are questions marks elsewhere. Some of those question marks involve two of the three players.

Laurent Koscielny had a remarkable second season, and has established himself as arguably the top defender at the club. The only thing that fans ask is that he remains injury-free and retains his level of performance.

Thomas Vermaelen was shaky throughout the season when he played, and will need to rediscover his debut season form and remain injury-free, for positive things to occur.

Bacary Sagna is still on the treatment table after his second leg-break, and one can only hope that he has the mental capacity to recover and produce the consistency he usually does for the club.

If all goes well with these three, that would be great but it is the left-back position especially and the backups for the club that has this Gooner weary.

Kieran Gibbs has still not replaced Gael Clichy as expected. While he is still young, his seemingly constant problems with injuries pose a problem. It remain to be seen how long Arsene Wenger will continue to wait for the youngster to step up.

In the meantime, Andre Santos may likely fill the starting role for the club. I for one have not, and probably will not, be fan of the Brazilian. He's no Silvinho in my book. Sure he's good going forward, but his defensive skills are highly questionable.

Elsewhere in the defense there is Johan Djourou, Carl Jenkinson and Per Mertesacker. The youngsters like Ignasi Miquel (though he may go on loan) and Kyle Bartley could potentially play bigger roles.

Djourou is always a question mark in terms of form, and sometimes fitness. Carl Jenkinson's inexperience will still feature prominently in his game, and the same can be said for the other youngsters.

Mertesacker wasn't the first choice for the German squad during Euro 2012, though his recent return from injury played a part, and his lack of pace will still be a concern for the club whenever he is picked.

Other top competitors have a multitude of quality defensive options, and if they don't already have them, they are certainly on the lookout. While we may be able to get by with the backup options in central areas, both full-back positions need strengthening.

A left-back is a definite necessity given that Francis Coquelin can fill in on the right, but the French youngster should be given his chance to grow in his primary midfield position. There are certainly options for Wenger in both positions when he re-enters the market.

Another thing that could be done is to buy a central defender and place Vermaelen on the left. The Belgian loves to go forward, and would provide a more stable defensive option than Gibbs and Santos as well.

Arsenal is pretty well set in attack and midfield at the moment with the variety of youth and experience in the squad. Should the defense be neglected the club runs the risk of failing to capture silverware yet again next season.

Wenger cannot wait on the development of Gibbs or Jenkinson and pray for the stability of Vermaelen, Koscielny and Sagna throughout the season. Anything can happen to any player at any given time.

"Offense wins games, and defense wins championships," and Arsenal is not yet at championship level.

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