Arsenal FC: Arsenal Faces New Defensive Conundrum with Thomas Vermaelen's Return

Mikhail Turner@MikhailTurnerContributor IIINovember 2, 2011

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18 :   Thomas Vermaelen of Afrsenal FC looks on during a training session ahead of their UEFA Champions League Group F match against Olympique de Marseille at London Colney on October 18, 2011 in St Albans, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

For the first time since the beginning of last season, Arsenal has three solid options in the central defensive department.

With the return of Thomas Vermaelen from injury it was obvious to any fan, neutral, or opponent, that Arsenal's defense would get better. His performance yesterday against Marseille showed just how important Vermaelen is for the Gunners.

Interestingly enough, his return both solves and creates a few problems for manager Arsene Wenger. The team is still without who is possibly its second best defender in Bacary Sagna and will be for some time. And it's safe to say the current options there do not instill a lot of confidence.

In fact, both full-back positions are currently the weak points for the Gunners and Alex Song can only do so much to shield his defenders. The whole back line can be still be stretched to the maximum by solid offensive units if both wide defenders are not up to task.

With that in mind, Wenger has some thinking to do. I'll admit I was one of the many who bashed the Koscielny signing all of last season, but I would be a fool to say I have not seen improvement. Still, I don't suddenly think Koscielny is a god on defense and—until this continues consistently for some time—I prefer Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker as starting options.

But with this problem could come a solution. Koscielny is the best of the rest of defenders and could bring his new-found solidity out to the right back position, thus giving the Gunners three dependable starters. Carl Jenkinson is still too raw, and could probably even do with a loan deal and Johan Djourou has left his head in Switzerland somewhere.

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Unfortunately, doing so would decrease the depth in the center and the likes of Johan Djourou and Sebastian Squillaci would have to step up to the plate next.

Fixing the left back position would provide a similar problem. It is not clear yet, but this does not seem to be the year of Kierian Gibbs. For some reason it seems Andre Santos now has the starting role and I for one don't like it.

Yes, he has scored two goals. Big whoop. He is a defender first. In both the Chelsea game and at times during yesterday's Champions League encounter, Santos seemed to think he was playing in Gervinho's position. A good right winger could have a field day with him on any given day on the defensive end.

In that instance, Thomas Vermaelen could move out left but again the depth of central defense would be a problem. That could all be solved with a pen to paper deal in January for some solid defensive option in whatever position. Or maybe Jenkinson will suddenly be the man, Djourou will find his head, or both.

Arsenal's defense is in unusual territory right now. Almost fully healthy and in decent form, things are looking upward.

Arsene Wenger now has some choices to make in defense, hopefully they are good ones.

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