Arsenal were condemned to their second successive defeat in a week after losing 2-0 to Portguese kings Sporting Braga in the UEFA Champions Premier League. The defeat comes of the back of a shock 3-2 loss to fierce rivals Tottenham after dominating and leading 2-0 at half time.
In what was a scrappy, slow match that was tainted by constant fouls by a lifeless Braga outfit alongside horrific refereeing, the Gunners went from dominating Group H to be in danger of failing to qualify for the final 16 of Europe's most prestigious domestic competition.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is currently pursuing an epic quest to end a five-year trophy drought, however, with the current defence the Frenchman boasts at his disposal, it looks destined that the lack of silverware will continue for yet another season.
During the Summer Arsene Wenger vowed to implement changes into his youthful squad in hopes of reinforcing a stronger title challenge for next season.
Critics and fans alike believed the goalkeeper position was the most glaring in need of change. Since Jens Lehman's departure in 2008, the Gunners have failed to boast a quality, reliable presence between the sticks. Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski had tried gallantly and were occasionally brilliant, but both had a tendency to make vital errors on a consistent basis.
However, Wenger was unable to attract a quality keeping presence, but the Frenchman was tremendously active in terms of defensive reinforcements. So as 2010-11 commenced, all felt that once again Arsenal's keeping conundrum would be the main reason for their eventual failure.
But surprisingly, it has not been the case.
Manuel Almunia began the season in solid fashion before a persistent elbow injury has seen the Spaniard absent since September. Deputy Lukasz Fabianski has been superb in Almunia's absence, proving his capability as a dominant keeper.
The Polish shot-stopper has shown great composure and consistency since being elevated to the No. 1 role and has all but diminished Arsenal's keeping woes. Yet despite the revival of Arsenal's keepers, Wenger's defence has been the focal point of their demises this season.
The French tactician worked tirelessly during the summer on his back line. William Gallas, Mikael Silvestre, Philippe Senderos, Sol Campbell and Kerrea Gilbert were all declined for contract extension despite boasting over 700 Premier League caps.
Wenger defensive line, particularly the centre half regime, was undernourished but the Frenchman was able to secure the signings of little known Frenchman Laurent Koscienly from French outfit Lorient FC for £10 million. Whilst former Lyon defender Sebastien Squillaci arrived from Spanish giants Seville for £3.2 million.
The two centre halves joined Thomas Vermaelen, the defensive leader, and Johan Djourou, who had missed all but the final game of 2009-10, as the central defenders. Vermaelen, touted as Arsenal premier defender, suffered a persistent ankle injury in August and has failed to feature since.
Johan Djourou has easily been the most impressive of the defensive, especially as the imposing Swiss only recently returned to full fitness. However, the two summer signings have failed to impress, particularly Laurent Koscienly.
The pair partnered one another for Arsenal's shock loss to rivals Tottenham on Saturday and are one of the predominant reasons Tottehnam were able to come from 2-0 down and succeed. Squillaci has performed credibly throughout the season and in Vermaelen's absence has formed a strong partnership with Djourou, but at 30, the Frenchman lacks the speed so desperately vital in the Premier League.
Koscienly, on the other hand, has just looked frail and out of place at times. Particularly during the second half against Tottenham, the 25-year-old was caught out of position and out-muscled too easily in the air. Furthermore, the Frenchman has already conceded to red cards in his short cameo.
If even Vermaelen is to return in the coming weeks, the former Ajax captain will require at least a month to regain proper fitness levels to thrive in the Premier League. The answer is plain and simple for Wenger: Buy a quality defender in January.
But Wenger's transfer motives are often disappointing. The Frenchman has a tendency to be particularly tentative with his funds hence the rarity of big name signings. However, surely with the current defensive crisis, Wenger will realise that he has to spend.
Fortunately the 60-year-old boasts sufficient funds at his disposal and has an opportunity to attract some of the world's best centre halves.
Let's establish who they could be.
The German giant would be the ideal defensive signing for Wenger. Blessed with imposing height of 6'6'' alongside great control, speed and composure, the 26-year-old is regarded as one of the best defensive prospects in Europe.
The Werder Bremen centre half was touted to move to the Emirates during the Summer along with a number of other big name clubs including the likes of Real Madrid and Chelsea. He is held in the highest regard by Bremen, which will ensure a heavy transfer fee, but in truth, it is nothing Wenger is unable to handle.
Mertesacker would provide the Arsenal back line with a vital imposing presence as well as securing a reliable force from set pieces. Furthermore Mertesacker is a natural leader and boast similar defensive traits to Thomas Vermaelen.
The Italian defensive maestro has been a consistent, commanding force in the Serie A for a number of years now, and many believe the 26-year-old would thrive in the Premier League. Chiellini is a tenacious, intelligent full back with impressive strength and a blistering header.
The Juventus starlet has accumulated over 160 games in Italy's best league and is considered one of the leaders in an experienced Juventus squad.
As expected, Chiellini would attract a heavy sum, but Wenger is touted as a great admirer of the Italian international, and the experience and quality Chiellini would provide in the Arsenal defence.
Richard Dunne epitomizes a no-nonsense, tough defender who thrives on hard work and success. The Irish enforcer has been a consistent performer in the Premier League for almost 15 years and rarely receives the correct amount of praise for his huge efforts.
Strong, powerful, imposing and smart, Dunne personifies guts and determination, which earned him a place in last season's PFA Team of the Year.
Currently with Aston Villa, the 31-year-old leads Gerard Houllier's back line, forming a strong partnership with James Collins. However, Wenger could be able to entice the Irishman away from Villa park with the prospect of European trophies and a greater leadership role.
Dunne would also attract a heavy fee, but it could cease to matter if Wenger is able to land the former Manchester City defender.
The former Arsenal centre half has always been one of Wenger's regrets. The Frenchman offloaded the Englishman during the glory days in 2003 to Birmingham City, and since then, as expected, Upson has become a strong and reliable defender.
Currently one of the bright points in a struggling West Ham squad. Signing Upson would install aggression and power into the Arsenal central defence and help establish added leadership and depth. With West Ham favourites for relegation this season, Arsenal could offer the 31-year-old a contract to hard to refuse as well as a healthy sum for Avram Grant.
The Dutch defender has impressed for a number of years whilst with German giants Hamburg SV and the Dutch national side. The 30-year-old was an integral part and leader of the Netherland's side the progressed to the final of the 2010 World Cup.
Touted with a move to the Premier League for a number of years now, Mathijsen is blessed with a superb tackle, experience and admirable strength. Likely to cost some what of a sum but nothing to demanding, and would be a worthy addition to the Arsenal side.