Ivan Perisic, Malcolm, Denis Suarez, Christopher Nkunku: Is Unai Emery gambling on attack to fire Arsenal into a top four position?
Injuries to Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Sokratis, and Laurent Koscielny have left the Gunners worryingly thin on the ground at the back and yet reports linking the club with defenders have been conspicuous by their absence in this transfer window.
Gary Cahill has been about the sum total of transfer whispers that have any credibility to them, the rest have been wild speculation and outright fabrication. For the record, I don’t think a short-term deal for the former England man would be a bad move by any stretch.
But given a dearth of alternative defensive possibilities, and the well-sourced and oft-reported talks surrounding the aforementioned attacking players, can we assume that Emery has decided that attack is the best form of defence, at least until the summer arrives?
It’s possible but, for me, it’s probably not wise.
Despite recent improvements – yes, including in the Manchester United game – Arsenal’s defence has been pretty porous this season and losing the four best defenders at the club should be more than enough to worry anybody.
And yet Emery seems content to focus his transfer efforts on wide players and ball carriers, an area which he has oft stated a desire to improve. The four players at the top of this piece certainly fit that bill but will they be enough to paper over our defensive cracks, or at least offset them?
Even with our creaking defence, we have managed to accrue five more points after game week 23 (44) than we did at the same stage last year (39), and we are also better off by five in the goal difference column. It’s not rapid progress but, at this stage, it remains progress.
Victory against Cardiff on Tuesday would keep our heads above water in that regard, particularly as we have a trip to Manchester City to come on Sunday – a match which not many of us hold out much hope for.
Clearly, it hasn’t been our defending that has moved us forward this season so the logic of Emery’s thinking would seem sound. More and better attacking options equates to more points.
If he banks on the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette to muck in from the front, while running Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torriera into the ground, will it be enough to bridge the 12-point gap between us and the top four?
In truth, there’s no telling. All the teams above us may suddenly experience a dramatic collapse and the threshold for the top four may be that much lower than it was in Arsene Wenger’s final season. It’s possible, though highly unlikely.
But if we aren’t seriously considering some defensive reinforcement given the mini-crisis that has enveloped our back line, I can only view it as a gamble from the manager and his top team.
It’s bold but it may also prove foolhardy.
Read more on the move for Ivan Perisic here.